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Thursday, June 30, 2011

The "So-Called" Absent Teacher Reserve

Today was the second time that I've seen my fellow excessed teachers referred to as "the so-called Absent Teacher Reserve."

This time it was that boiled my blood with that hyphenated disparagement.  I ran to the nearest phone booth (pretty far, these days), donned my brooklynatr cape, and dashed off a reply:

Like just about every other news outlet, you're a little mixed up about the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR).  There is no reason to call it the "so-called" Absent Teacher Reserve. That is the proper and official name that the Department of Education gave it. Is the DOE referred to as "the so-called" DOE? Is Dennis Walcott referred to as "the so-called" Chancellor?

Breaking News: NYC Teachers Agree to Pay Cut!

"What?!  Pay cut?!  Didn't I hear that the city budget was balanced by merely agreeing to suspend sabbaticals and to deploy ATRs more efficiently?"

You heard correctly, but not completely.  The UFT reported today that teachers will not be receiving any money this coming year to purchase supplies.  The Teacher's Choice program, which has been providing teachers with money to purchase classroom supplies since the 1980's, has fallen victim to New York City's budget woes. 

Last year, each teacher received $110 in Teacher's Choice funding (already down from $220 in some previous years.)  This year, teachers will have to reach into their own pockets to buy the hundred-and-one little things that make a classroom functional and fun.

In effect, every teacher will endure a $110 pay cut during school year 2011-2012.  It doesn't sound like much to a hedge-fund manager--which is why maybe one of those guys should pony up and bring Teacher's Choice back to life.   

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

ATR Trashtalk Recycled

Here we go again: someone else decides to write about the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) without having the slightest idea about what it is.

This time it was a site called  Instead of suffering through their errors, let's just see how they were refuted by good ol' Joseph Moses (one of my aliases). 

Your discussion of the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) is full of inaccuracies. 

1) Not all teachers who are excessed are "senior teachers" with six-figure salaries. Excessing frequently affects teachers who have worked only a year or two and who are earning far below six figures. 

2) Teachers are not excessed due to poor performance. The DOE states that excessing can take place for one of the following reasons: a) grade reconfiguration; b) reduction in student enrollment; c) school phase-out; d) program change.

3) Excessed teachers were never assigned to the "Rubber Room." That heaven-on-earth was reserved for teachers who had been accused of misconduct and were awaiting a hearing (click here for more information).  

4) ATRs did not begin to fill in for teachers on sabbatical or maternity leave "following last year's hiring freeze," nor will the new budget herald in an era in which ATRs begin to serve as day-to-day substitutes. I was excessed three years ago. For the first month, I filled in for a teacher on maternity leave; after that, I was sent to another school where I worked as a day-to-day substitute.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Breaking News: The ATR's New Deal

What will be the role of teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) under the new deal that was reached yesterday?

The UFT reports, somewhat vaguely, that the ATRs will be "used more efficiently to fill long and short-term vacancies in their school districts."  

As readers of NYCATR know quite well, this is exactly what ATRs have been doing all along; if a few have been doing something else (or nothing at all) the fault lies with their administrators.

A more specific report is offered by
each week teachers from ATRs [sic] can be sent to a different school in their district. 
 Not exactly the news I wanted to hear, but clarity is a virtue.  



Breaking News: NYC teacher layoffs averted; ATRs partially sold out

     NYCATR is pleased to pass along the word that there will be no layoffs of teachers in the NYC public school system.

     The bad news is that this is being done primarily on the backs of the members of the Absent Teacher Reserve, who already have suffered enough. 
       The UFT reports
The 1,200 teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) pool [will be] used more efficiently to fill long and short-term vacancies in their school districts. Such use is designed to save much of the money the DOE now spends on “per diem” substitutes to fill these vacancies.
     What this seems to mean is that ATRs will no longer be assigned to a specific school for the year.  Rather, they will be bounced from school to school on a daily basis.  (If I'm wrong about this, please, someone, let me know.)

        Until now, ATRs had some small, but significant advantages over per-diem subs: 
  *ATRs at least knew where they were going in the morning
   *ATRs knew where to park or which train or bus to take
   *ATRs had a years's time to become familiar with their students,
    their administrators, their school culture.
     It seems that all that will be lost.  Is it worth saving a job with full salary and benefits?  Absolutely.  Is it a darn shame?  That too, absolutely.  

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Humpty Dumpty

     If you want to know what a word means, you need to ask the people who say it.  As the great philologist Humpty Dumpty taught,
When I use a means just what I choose it to mean-- neither more nor less.
   Ruben Brosbe is a teacher, a blogger, and a member of Educators4Excellence; that last item may explain why he is so confused. In a recent blogpost, Mr. Brosbe reports that he wasn't sure about the meaning of the term "excessed" and "excessing."  Instead of consulting the people who use these terms--the DOE and the UFT, Mr. Brosbe turned to, where he found this definition of the verb  to excess:
to dismiss, demote, transfer, or furlough (an employee), especially as part of a mass layoff. 
As we will soon see, this definition has little to do with the reality in NYC. 

     Let's use the Humpty Dumpty method and see what the DOE and the UFT say about these terms.  Although they disagree about so many issues, these two groups are surprisingly in unison when it comes to defining excessing.  
       Here's the DOE's version:
Staff can be excessed for one or more of the following   reasons: Grade reconfiguration / Reduction in student enrollment / School phase out /  Program change
     Now, the UFT:
There are times when a school reduces the size of its faculty, such as when it experiences an unexpected drop in student enrollment, loses a budget line or is being closed, redesigned or phased out. This is called “excessing.” It is a displacement, but it is quite different from a layoff or a firing.
     Notice: there is nothing in these two definitions about dismissal, demotion, furlough, or layoffs.  That's not what excessing is about, and that's not what happened to those who now find themselves members of the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR).  
     Mr. Brosbe, may I introduce you to Mr. Dumpty?  He has a few things to teach you. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

News Flash: ATR finds place to hang up his coat

As the school year draws to a close, a member of the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) finally found a place to hang up his coat.  

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Why I Can't Find a Teaching Position

Who woulda thunk that a letter in the New York Daily News "Voice of the People" section would explain why I haven't been able to find a regular teaching position for the last three years. Here it is:

Briarwood: Schools used to get more money from the city when they employed senior teachers because schools were funded based on employees' average salaries. Then Mayor Bloomberg changed the policy and senior teachers became a financial liability. No senior teacher, no matter how talented, would be hired by a principal who had a choice between one expensive veteran and two cheap rookies. This is the real reason many excessed teachers can't find jobs, though principals are more than happy to let them sub, clearly trusting them to teach.  
                                               Renee Silverstein

And notice how the savvy Ms. Silverstein even knows how members of the Absent Teacher Reserve pass their time: they teach! 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

News Flash: Teachers in Absent Teacher Reserve (ATRs) are misused

I know two ATRs who work in the same high school.  Sam is a real expert on European history; Ed is an experienced math teacher. So what happened recently when a social studies teacher and a math teacher were absent on the same day?  You guessed it: Sam got the math classes and Ed got the social studies, and the students got cheated.

Then there was the woman who was an excellent special education teacher for kindergarten and first grade.  When she was excessed and became an ATR, where was she sent to cover classes?  To a junior high-school, of course. 

In a similar vein, here's a little item from the latest edition of the New York Teacher:

Sharon Kennedy, a librarian at PS/IS 325 in East New

York, was excessed last year and is now teaching 6th

grade as an ATR in Brooklyn while a teacher runs the

school’s library.

Listen, why worry?  The DOE's motto is Children First, so all this must be for the benefit of the children.  

Sunday, June 12, 2011

News Flash: Teachers are Stressed Out

To those who say that teaching is a part-time job with two months of summer vacation, we offer the following article.  It explains why so much of my hair has fallen out over the last 23 years. 

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Opposite of Fact

What is the opposite of FACT?
      No, it's not OPINION.  Legitimate opinions are based on facts, so they're not the opposite of fact.
       The opposite of FACT is a man named RAFIQ R. KALAM ID-DIN II.  Mr. Kalam recently wrote an article in the New York Post in which he stretches the facts about charter-school co-locations beyond the realm of opinion and into the netherworld of obfuscation and outright misinformation.

*KALAM SAYS: Co-location of charter schools in New York City public schools is simply "the sharing of open space between a new and an existing school."
*THE FACTS: The space that charter schools want to share with (or borrow or steal from) district schools is rarely "open." Usually it is space that the existing school needs desperately, either for survival or for potential growth. Follow this link to read about this common situation, and this one to see how it is affecting one particular school in Brooklyn.   

*KALAM SAYS: Charter schools "receive no money for facilities."
*THE FACTSThose charter schools that have already received free lodging through co-location are most definitely getting "money for facilities."  Those that don't can turn to the billionaires--such as Bill Gates and the Broad family--that have donated fortunes to charter schools.

*KALAM SAYS: Charter school co-locations are being opposed by the UFT, which is a "multi-billion dollar" organization. 
*THE FACTS: The UFT's total assets are approximately $137 MILLION, far less than even a quarter of a billion dollars, and little more than chump change compared to the money that Bill Gates and a horde of hedge-fund operators are investing in charter schools.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

News Flash: NY Post publishes some truth about education

     It's hard to believe, but the New York Post published an article by Michael Goodwin that includes a great deal of truth about education in New York City.
     Should we rejoice that the Post allowed the truth to be published?  Or should we cry because the truth is not very pretty?