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Monday, September 26, 2011

A former ATR teacher ponders a descent back into Purgatory

Here's the latest from Life in Limbo.  Her earliest writings for NYCATR described her life in ATR Purgatory.  This September, she arose from the dead to accept a regular teaching assignment.  

Call me crazy (everyone else does), but I am starting to regret this and it’s not even October.

Eons ago, back at the end of August, I was relieved to be offered a permanent position that was both relatively close to home and which also allowed me to stay under my Literacy license, which is where my tenure is. It is a Collaborative Team Teaching (CTT) position, and I share the four major subjects with another teacher in the room, and I was told that the class would contain between 25 and 28 students. Not bad, I thought. So I took it, thankful that I was going to be spared the ordeal of becoming a member of the "School-of-the-Week Club."

Then the pile-on began. The faculty handbook of my school includes a list of about 20 items that MUST be prominently posted in the classroom visible to ALL students all the time. Things like a poster of the breakdown of the Reading/Writing Workshop. And the complete list of the Common Core Standards in ALL subjects. A poster of classroom procedures (at front and center in the room). A poster of entry procedures (near the entrance door). A poster of exit procedures (near the exit door). Miscellaneous blank graphic organizers. The school oath. The Pledge of Allegiance (they don’t know it by 8th grade, apparently). List of acceptable uniform items. Rubrics for every subject. 

The list doesn’t stop and I found myself scrambling to find a working printer and computer to print out all this stuff because my classroom contains NO technology whatsoever. No computers, no printers, nothing. Forget about a SMART Board, LOL! I have a non-working mounted TV and a pull-down screen. And the waiting list for the one projector/laptop cart for the whole floor is already a month long. And all this HAD to be done by the END of the day on September 9 – and the administration was starting the walkthroughs as we were dismissing the students that day. I wonder about all the purpose of this – why do the kids need the Common Core Standards up in their faces all day? I mean, aren’t the standards and Reading Workshop components for ME? As if the reason this school’s scores dropped like rocks last year was because the graphic organizer with the Workshop Model wasn’t big enough? And think of all the time that was wasted as I chased my tail trying to print out and post yet another piece of pretty bull**** on the wall. And on top if it all, I was cited on the “Learning Environment Checklist” because some of my pretty bull**** didn’t look like everyone else’s pretty bull**** which makes the school look "inconsistent," and also because some of my pretty bull**** was done by hand, and not by computer (mind you, I have PERFECT handwriting – just like those cards we used to hang across the front of the classroom back in the day). I guess “NO EXCUSES” even applies to technology that you don’t have. Maybe one of these days I can type it on my cell phone and print out of my butt. But not today.

I have been given a flash drive containing pacing calendars, curriculum maps (a couple of which start in November, not September) and the 181-page faculty handbook and told to "take it home and print it all out."  I have already been required to attend three mandatory meetings during my "duty-free" lunch period and have had both "Inquiry Team" meetings last over 20 minutes beyond the end of the day, making me late picking up my son from a weekly appointment he has. During these inquiry team meetings, we are usually given some kind of ARIS-related BS task to do on the laptops. The catch? The laptops rarely work properly with everyone logging on at the same time, so "inquiry" time is usually spent rebooting and pushing random buttons on the laptop and the new assignment, (due by the "close of business tomorrow") ends up being added to the pile-on we must miraculously complete. 

The best happened on Friday. I was in my room on a prep toward the end of the day and a student comes in with a clipboard and a little stack of neon colored papers. She says that the AP wants everyone to sign for one of these slips. The sign-up sheet only says that I received it, so I sign and take the slip. I read it and got really pissed. It said to be sure that you log on and check your DOE e-mail frequently during the weekends for "important information and updates" and that "twice a day is the expected minimum." WTH? Sorry, but I really try to FORGET about work on the weekends so I can enjoy my family a little. As far as I know, I am not required to check e-mail AT ALL on weekends, let alone twice a day. This is on top of the fact that I ALREADY receive text messages from my administrators at 10:30 at night telling me to check my e-mail before bed.

And how is my union responding to all this? 

The silence is deafening.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Why is the UFT holding meetings for ATR teachers in all 5 boroughs?

Readers of NYCATR already know that the UFT will be holding a meeting for ATR teachers in each of the 5 boroughs.  Perhaps the UFT is doing this--rather than holding one big meeting in a central location--for the convenience of the teachers.  Or perhaps not.  Here's a thought from a blog called New York City Eye:

Some developments suggest that the UFT is dampening potential groundswell factors. 

First, the meeting was to be a single one, at the Brooklyn Marriott offices of the Brooklyn UFT. But a single site could seem too much agitation for Unity.
[So],the UFT split the meetings into successive nights: October 3 in the Bronx, October 4 in Brooklyn, October 5 in Staten Island, October 6 in Queens and October 11 in Manhattan.

The Ronin Teacher predicts pusillanimous prevarications at UFT-ATR meetings

Marc Epstein, otherwise known as the Ronin Teacher, looked into his crystal ball and predicted what will happen at the meeting between the UFT and the ATR teachers next week.  We hope he's wrong.

A Japanese palmreader at work
The UFT will do everything in its power to convince the ATRs that they have their backs and that they won the LIFO War with Bloomberg.

Mulgrew - Casey- Mendel can't explain why: 

a) the hiring freeze was lifted in August just as the ATR pool was growing;
b) they agreed to allow ATRs to be moved from week to week--it's a mystery.

ATRs that have per-session jobs like coaching might find it impossible to do those jobs as they are shifted around a large borough like Queens and Brooklyn. 

The ATR agreement really handed Bloomberg a LIFO victory by calling it something else. As if the life of a Ronin weren't bad enough, they threw in the right to move them around weekly.

The UFT is complicit in these terror tactics, or they are remarkably stupid. Perhaps it's a combination of the two.

Picture credit:

ATR Non-Negotiable Demands

Our intrepid contributor, Philip Nobile, has suggested three non-negotiable demands that ATR teachers should present to the UFT when they meet with them, borough-by-borough, next week.  (Click here for the schedule of meetings.)

We take charge. We run the meeting.  After all, it was our idea. We asked the UFT for a sit-down and Mulgrew said no such luck. What was good for rubber roomers--monthly meetings at 52 Broadway with liaisons from each room--was not on the table for us. We were told by Brooklyn special representative Elizabeth Perez on September 12th to be satisfied with tracking down a strange chapter leader week by week for representation of any kind.

Mulgrew changed his mind, one can speculate, not because we were right but because we are potentially powerful. We are 2000 (and growing) discontented teachers, victims of a Gentlemen’s Agreement between the DOE and UFT. And we have nothing to lose but our weekly rotations. 

Organizing ATRs is a problem. But the UFT has done the favor for us. Most of us will meet for the first time on October 4. That’s our moment of conception. We will politely inform the borough reps that we want to meet for a half hour among ourselves. They will not say no. Then behind closed doors we bond and work out our agenda for the meeting. It should be brief with short-term and long- term goals. We should also drop a list of questions to be answered in writing within 5 days.

Accordingly, we must turn the meetings to our advantage by making non-negotiable demands that will establish us as a genuine constituency with special needs requiring full court representation. The UFT helped to create our class, so let the union recognize us as a chapter.

Unless we organize and force UFT recognition, we will have wasted our best opportunity to begin to correct the wrongs against us, which leads to the suggested Non-Negotiable Demands. The rest is detail.

Here are the demands:

1. The UFT agrees to an ATR chapter, giving us direct representation at chapter leader meetings and Delegate Assemblies.

2. The UFT agrees to monthly meetings with ATRs or their representatives.

3.  Mulgrew agrees to welcome all ATRs to 52 Broadway just as Randi did with all reassigned members in October 2007.

Friday, September 23, 2011

UFT Meetings for ATR Teachers in all 5 Boroughs

The UFT has now announced that it will be holding a meeting for members of the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) in each of the 5 boroughs.  Here is the poster that can be downloaded from

Thursday, September 22, 2011

NYC DOE crucifies a teacher; judge's orders ignored

NYCATR welcomes a new contributor who wishes to be known as Crucified Teacher.  Her tale is excruciating.

Crucifixion nails from approximately
2,000 years ago

I became an ATR after a federal judged overturned the DOE's attempt to terminate my employment.  Even though the judge ruled that I should not have been terminated from my teaching position, the DOE did not place me back into the position they should not have terminated me from. 

My interviewing has been awful. After the first job fair this past summer, during an interview, a principal shared a service history of me that has two big errors making me look like an awful teacher. I feel that because of this I am blacklisted and no principal will hire me. The more I network with principals in an attempt to be hired, the more aware they become of a service history that has terrible errors, and the more I may be networking myself as a terrible teacher... 

Even though I have current and up-to-date positive references, teaching/directing jobs, and professional administration course work, these do not seem to be a deciding factor in hiring me.  Principals only seem to be interested in my service history, which is full of major errors. 

This seems contrary to the DOE's insistence that we pursue being hired in a proactive manner, which I have wholeheartedly done.

Photo credit:

This job fair was a mockery!

Barbra Nahoum, an ATR teacher in Brooklyn's District 21, attended the mandatory job fair that was held at the Brooklyn Museum on September 20th.  She enjoyed herself so much that she ran home and dashed off the following letter to Michael Mulgrew, the president of the UFT.

Dear Mr. Mulgrew:

The parking lot of the Brooklyn Museum
features a replica of the Statue of
Liberty.  Whose liberty, we''re not sure.

Today was a humiliating day for teachers who were mandated to attend the Teacher Recruitment Fair. When I arrived with my ATR friends at the Brooklyn Museum, we received a ticket at the gate and then drove around looking for a parking spot. The parking lot was packed with cars and many teachers had to turn around and look for a spot on the street. When I entered the museum there was a check-in counter to sign in. The room was packed wall to wall with people. Most of the people in the room, I have seen at other Job Fairs in previous years. I also met a lot of new ATR's from my district, and I was very sad to see that they are now going to be joining me as a nomad in a school district. It is very apparent to me that this new teaching position "ATR" is here to stay and the club is growing by leaps and bounds.

The room was set up with long tables all around this huge room and half of the tables were empty, due to no-shows of principals, I assume. After I walked the room and it was close to 3:00 p.m., I was given a letter confirming that I attended this job fair. We then left the building and proceeded to walk to my friend's car. We then had to wait on a long line to pass the front gate. As we were waiting, I saw teachers handing the attendant money. I thought to myself, "Why are they paying when the DOE was sponsoring this fair?" When we reached the gate the attendant said, "You pay $7.00 because your ticket is not stamped." We then asked, "where do we get it stamped?" The attendant said, "I don't know." Why wasn't there a sign notifying ATR's that at the end of the fair you must get your ticket stamped? When we received a letter verifying our attendance at the end of the job fair, the Division of Human Resources staff should have asked for our ticket and stamped it. They did not mention anything about getting a ticket stamped. Many teachers were in a rush to leave because they have families and other obligations after school. The majority of teachers paid the $7.00 because none of them were aware that they were supposed to get their ticket stamped at the Teacher Recruitment Fair. There were no signs or any indication that they had to get their ticket stamped in order to be exempt from paying the parking lot fee. It was very obvious that they didn't want teachers to get their ticket stamped.

This event has turned out to be a money making event for people who own this parking lot. It is bad enough that we had to attend this event that was nonproductive. It is so disturbing that middle aged, experienced teachers are subbing and will probably never be regular teachers again in the DOE.  These teachers have many years of public service serving the children in the City of New York and this is the thanks they get. We serve the most important people in the community (our children) and our farewell gift is to be treated with no respect and we are looked upon by our coworkers as if we are rejects in this system.

This job fair was a mockery!
Barbra Nahoum

cc: Judy Gerowitz [UFT District 21 Representative]
Howard Schoor [UFT Brooklyn Borough Leader]
Michael Mendel [UFT Secretary]

Photo credit:

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

UFT yields to pressure and grants meeting for ATR teachers

Our work is not in vain.  The agitation of Norm Scott and his GEM ATR Committee, of Philip Nobile and his open letters to UFT officials, and of NYCATR and its open public forum for ATR complaints, have influenced the UFT to yield on its refusal to meet with ATR teachers.  Here is a copy of a flier that has been sent to all UFT Chapter Leaders, to be distributed to all ATR teachers. 

Quotation of the Day 9/20/2011

Our next mayor?

The following is from an article in the Chief Leader about an audit that was conducted by John Liu, the Comptroller of New York City.  The audit investigates the DOE's efforts to help excessed teachers find permanent placement, an effort that it is contractually obligated to make.

“DOE provided limited evidence that it evaluates the effectiveness of its placement efforts; tracks all efforts of these Teachers to find permanent positions; or tracks historical data on those Teachers who have successfully left the ATR pool,” the audit said. “Without such information, we believe that DOE is significantly hindered in its ability to evaluate the success of its efforts in helping ATR Teachers find permanent positions.”

Readers of NYCATR know that the reason the DOE has limited evidence regarding its placement efforts is because it puts very little real effort into than endeavor.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Location Uncertain for Tomorrow's ATR Job Fair

The GEM ATR Committee has informed us that there will be a job fair tomorrow, September 20, for members of the ATR from Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island.

The location of this fair is presently the subject of confusion. The GEM Committee is under the impression that it will be held at the Armory Foundation at 216 Washington Avenue in Manhattan.  NYCATR, however, called the Armory and was informed that they do not have this event on their calendar.

Does this mean that the job fair will be held, like many others, at the Brooklyn Museum?  NYCATR turns to you, the readers, to reply with any information you might have about the location of tomorrow's job fair.  ASAP.  

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Attention ATR’s – What’s REALLY going on here?

Below is the text of a leaflet that was distributed at the job fair for ATR teachers that was held on Tuesday, September 13, at the Armory in Washington Heights.  It was written and distributed by members of the GEM ATR Committee.

Attention ATR’s – What’s REALLY going on here?

Help fight off the destructive actions of the DOE done in the name of "school reform," as well as the poor decisions of the UFT leadership resulting in the loss of job protections and the unwarranted closure of over 100  high schools (& middle schools) over the objections of parents, students, alumni, teachers, community, etc. The Bronx & Manhattan has been particularly hard hit - we've lost every community high school with the exception for DeWitt Clinton, which survives only due to their powerful alumni association. Many of these high schools were around for 75-100 years educating generations of New Yorkers.

Bloomberg developed a "final solution" to purge the system of senior teachers: close large community middle and high schools, eliminate seniority transfer, require principals to consider salary in making staffing decisions. These actions created a large pool of ATR's (unassigned teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve). A critical component of this strategy is the repeal of LIFO ("Last In-First Out" state civil service seniority protections) which would result in the firing of ATR's who are unable to secure regular teaching positions on the open market. Despite Bloomberg's vigorous efforts, the state legislature did not abolish LIFO, thus creating the unusually large pool of unassigned ATR's. With the failure of this strategy, the DOE is trying figure out what to do with all these, mostly senior ATR's. The current strategy appears to harass them by using the unassigned ATR's to cover absences, in lieu of the day-to-day subs. In October they will be moved around each week to different schools. Expect a new assault on LIFO this year.

If your only sources of information are the D.O.E dispatches from Tweed, the UFT newspaper or the compliant mass media, you are not getting the whole picture. Please check out blogger "NYCATR"--with lots of useful information for ATRs: Also, look into the list of other teacher activist blogs on the right sidebar for more insights. An excellent blog for ALL teachers to get an overview of what's really happening is "Education Notes Online:

The Grassroots Education Movement, a group of educator activists, has formed a committee for those working as ATR’s. Our goals include providing information to people in this position and organizing this very vulnerable group. We expect to hold a meeting soon. Contact: The Grassroots Education Movement at

31 barking dogs nominated for Rhodes scholarships

Here is a report from one of NYCATR's founding contributors, Life in Limbo.  Ms. Limbo has found a permanent appointment, and she's finding that members of the ATR aren't the only teachers who suffer from the DOE's brilliant policies.

My class is really rough; today it sounded like 31 barking dogs by the end of the day. And I could handle it (I was excessed from an IMPACT school) if I didn't feel like someone at Tweed is ready to slit my throat if I don't turn these kids into Rhodes Scholars by testing time.

And the pile-on of feel-good classroom "environment" requirements is a total time waster. When I was in District 29 they were just bringing in the Calkins model for literacy and there was such a big deal about every classroom needing a rug.  As if the reason the kids can't read is that there's no rug in the room. Now, of course,  the kids are failing the state ELA because the Common Core isn't posted in 700-point font at the center of the room for them to stare at!!

Graphics Credit:

Civil War Brewing in UFT Ranks

The following observations were sent to NYCATR by Marjorie Stamberg, a UFT delegate and long-time activist.  They are a call to battle with the DOE--and with the UFT.    

Below are some notes based on conversations with teachers who have been living in the surreal world of ATRland. According to the UFT’s latest figures, some 1,500 of our colleagues are caught in this limbo, where their rights are trampled on. 

In the 2005 contract with the NYC Department of Education, the UFT agreed to allow principals to select the staff at “their” schools. It was also agreed to abolish the UFT job transfer list, where a teacher whose school was closed, or who wished to change schools, could transfer to an opening on a seniority basis, by license area. 

Many of us opposed this at the time as a dangerous attack on teachers’ job security. The upshot was the ballooning of the Absent Teacher Reserve consisting of teachers who have been “excessed” through no fault of their own, as the DOE capriciously shuts down and reorganizes schools as part of its program of charterizing, corporatizing and privatizing public education. 

Teachers in the ATR pool have been made into scapegoats by the media which claims that they are “bad teachers” who should be fired and are supposedly costing NYC taxpayers millions of dollars to sit around doing nothing. These claims are bald-faced lies in the service of a union-busting agenda. 

In fact, as a recent audit by NYC Comptroller John Liu’s office shows, 95 percent of all ATRs are working in schools, three-quarters of them are teaching, and almost half of those who have been in the ATR pool for two or more years have been assigned to the same location for at least two consecutive years! (“Audit Report on the Department of Education’s Utilization of the Absent Teacher Reserve Pool,” September 6, 2011). They are only in the ATR limbo because principals don’t want to pay their salaries. 

Our ATR colleagues need the support of all teachers. As every teacher knows, “If You’re Not an ATR Today, You Could Be Tomorrow!” 

Last spring it was urgent to fight against Mayor Bloomberg’s threatened layoffs of thousands of teachers. Due to our fight-back, the mayor was unable to change the “LIFO” (“Last In First Out”) seniority rules which are a basic union protection. Bloomberg had to back down on his layoff threats which would have paralyzed the schools and been disastrous for students. 

Today we must demand that the more than 800 school aides and other staff who have been laid off be returned to work. And we need to come to the aid of our ATR colleagues under attack, out of elementary solidarity and to protect the jobs of all teachers and staff. 

At recent so-called “job fairs,” ATRs turned out in the hundreds, but the principals refused to even bother to turn up to interview or hire. This profound contempt for ATR teachers is part of an organized media campaign instigated by the DOE. 

Starting on September 15, principals have been told to place ATRs in all vacancies and long-term absences in the schools. So one thing we can do right now is to report all vacancies to the union chapter leaders, especially where there are ATRs in the same school. 

According to the citywide agreement, after one year ATRs who have provisional positions should be offered a permanent assignment if the principal and the teacher agree that there is a “good fit.” However, many principals don’t want to hire an experienced teacher, conscious of his or her rights, when they can get two new hires for the same price. There are many ATRs who have been working in the same position year after year, and yet the principal still refuses to give them permanent assignments. 

ATRs who are not given provisional positions are to be treated as subs, and moved from school to school wherever there is a need. Clearly this is an agenda to harass these teachers out of the system! 

Back in 2008, when the DOE recklessly reorganized the GED program in District 79, “excessing” hundreds of teachers, we demanded that every teacher in the ATR pool must be given a permanent position. We must continue to demand that today. After the 2008 fight in D79, including a demonstration of more than 200 UFTers in November of that year, the ATR issue has not gone away, despite the toothless “Side Agreement” with the DOE. 

The UFT must insist that: 

Schools place all ATR teachers before any new hires are placed. 

ATRs should be given permanent assignments with full rights. 

There are also a number of things that the union can and should do, now. 

There should be regular citywide UFT meetings for ATRs to discuss together, and to get the latest information from the UFT leadership. In addition, we call on the UFT to form a special ATR functional chapter so that teachers placed in this terrible situation have representation and advocates to demand that they be placed and their rights be respected. At present there is no body in the UFT that has this task, and ATRs are mostly left to fend for themselves. 

Even within the framework of the present contract, the union can and should provide oversight and encouragement to principals to request the ATR be kept in the school, and not bumped from place to place. This requires advocacy on a case by case basis. It is obvious that this is only good pedagogy to have a teacher familiar with the school administration, the faculty, the students, and the individual curricula. 

In addition, ATR teachers have raised a number of the many unresolved questions about their situation: 

What provisions are being made for ATRs to express their rights as full dues-paying UFT members?  Where are their voting rights in the UFT chapters? This is particularly acute if these teachers are being moved from school to school. 

If ATRS are in numerous schools throughout the school year, how will they be evaluated? It is hard enough to be in a single school without a permanently assigned classroom; but when one is never in a school long enough to develop rapport with the students as well as collaboration with a principal, the other teachers and the school staff, how can a teacher possibly get a satisfactory rating? 

Many teachers do not have direct deposit. What is the procedure for receiving their paychecks in a timely fashion? Who is responsible and where will the bi-weekly checks be sent for pick-up? 

What evidence is there for assuming the statistics will be any better by June 2012? It is clear that principals still have huge economic pressures on them which forces them to go for the lower-paid and lower-seniority teachers. There is also evidence of systematic age discrimination which the UFT has not directly fought. 

Overall, we must make clear:

With the budget cuts, there has been much talk about larger classroom size. There is no need for overcrowded classrooms with almost 2,000 teachers available to fill full-time positions. There is talk of lack of space. Again, except for certain districts in Queens where the DOE has failed to build new schools despite plenty of forewarning, this is an artificial shortage, created by the DOE’s campaign to hand over available classroom space to charter school “co-locations.” 

Even though thousands of students and parents, particularly from the African American, Latino and Asian communities most affected, have loudly (and repeatedly) denounced this attack, Bloomberg and his minions at the DOE keep up their school-wrecking operation. But they can be stopped if we use our power and act together. 

Picture credit:

Friday, September 16, 2011

Is there strength in the UFT Unity Coalition?

NYCATR is proud to present the thoughts of E.M. Greenspan, a teacher who is now retired after 33 years of service.  Be careful; Mr. Greenspan holds no punches about the past, the present, or the future. 

Though I've been retired for 10 years now, let me comment on the terrible situation facing ATR's. This is a travesty and disgrace beyond belief.

ATRs,  I sympathize with you. How many of you have continued to believe the lies of Unity Caucus? How many of you continue to vote for these people each time there is an election? How many of you didn't even bother to vote in the elections?

Unity has been out of the classroom for too many years. They constantly win in landslides. There is little to no motivation for them to do anything for the membership. If they were made to teach under the conditions they have negotiated, they'd sing a different tune entirely. There must be term-limits for elected UFT officials. In addition, a proviso must be added that at the end of their respective terms, UFT elected officials must go back to the classroom and teach for at least 5 years.

Why aren't ATRs being used to lower class sizes? ATR's did not obtain Master's degrees and in many cases teach for over 15 years to be relegated to substitute status.

Remember how everyone was told to teach in their own subject area? Why are ATR's being put into subject areas they have little to no experience in? Why? It will be easier for principals to find fault with them and ultimately drive them out. I understand that after Oct. 7 ATR's can be moved around from school to school. This will make it easier for principals to unload you. This will lead to unhappiness and the Board's hope along with Unity's is that you will leave.

Since ATR's are being treated like substitutes, let them pay substitute dues to the union. Then, maybe the union would wake up and demand that ATR's be treated as professionals.

Whatever happened to the expedited grievance procedures? Does Unity ever win any concessions from the city anymore? Years ago, we couldn't wait for another contract. Now, we dread it. Unity has created this by giving up so much that we were on the picket lines for in 1968 and 1975. How dare Unity give up seniority transfers and bumping rights for excessed, disenfranchised teachers? This helped to create this mess. Did you vote "yes" on Unity Caucus contracts? As a result, everyone is now suffering.
Unity Caucus must be made to come back down to earth. They are NOT management. They are not the PERSONNEL directors at Tweed. They are a union for teachers. They are not the union for parents or disruptive brats. Why have they kept quiet about the restoring of the 600 school concept for such children? Sure, they're not in the classroom and don't have to deal with recalcitrant children. 

We need separate bargaining units for all members of the school system. School secretaries need their own bargaining and voting unit. They don't know about what a teacher goes through, but they're literally in the pocket of Unity before the votes are tabulated. Ditto for school psychologists, social workers and others. They deserve their benefits and rights; however, teachers need a totally separate bargaining unit.

We could lower class size by demanding that teachers be paid additional money for each child in their class above contractual limits.

When I taught, Unity would say: "In strength there is Unity." Could they really say that today? Methinks not. (They may have said that in Unity there is strength, but what a joke that statement is.)
Graphic credit:

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Nobile-Barr Virus continues to rage

The Epstein-Barr Virus. You shouldn't know from it,
or from the Nobile-Barr virus either.
We recently published a series of letters between the following players in the ATR game:

a) Philip Nobile, an ATR teacher who wants the UFT to establish a special chapter for ATR teachers;
b) LeRoy Barr, the UFT Staff Director, who passed on the issue to one of the UFT's Special Representatives;
c) Elizabeth Perez, a UFT Special Representative, who informed Nobile that the ATR teachers do not need a special chapter because they are represented by the Chapter Leaders in the schools where they have been assigned;
d) Joseph Moses, the publisher of NYCATR, who put in his two cents. 

In this posting, the correspondence continues.  It's beginning to sound like what is known in Yiddish as an oisgeschlepte krank, meaning a prolonged illness.  
With all respect for Liz, she does not make UFT policy, nor did she explain why the UFT won't establish some arrangement to represent the special interests of ATRs, just as you did for rubber roomers in the past. Why are ATRs different? 
It is not serious to claim that wandering ATRs are adequately repped by chapter leaders. Even chapter meetings are ruled out unless one happens to occur by chance during the week we're in a school. 
I presume you have read the sad stories of ATRs on the NYCATR, ICE, and GEM blogs. If not, you should. Our growing discontent and rising agitation does the UFT no good.  
How about we explore a solution to this unnecessary controversy at a meeting at 52? How soon can you
set it up? 
Looking forward,


Picture Credit:

The Love Letter of Ms. R. ATR

NYCATR welcomes a new contributor, Ms. R. ATR.  We predict that she'll be a star. 

September 15, 2011

Dear DOE, 

Thank you so much for keeping me in the Absent Teacher Reserve. I am so looking forward to enjoying all my time this year, traveling from school to school, from job fair to job fair. 

It’s been so much fun hanging out with other teachers at the “DOE Recruitment Job Fair” at the Armory in upstate Manhattan. They have so much experience; so many years of teaching. Wow. We get to know each other so well as we wait in lines, wrapped around the Armory, waiting for those big burly security guards to let us get into another line. It’s fun to wait and talk. We talk about so many interesting things. My, but these teachers are so very bright. As we’re herded three flights up to another line, I think about all the students they have inspired. As I line up again and again to wait for an interview, I so appreciate this opportunity to learn about my colleagues. Why, this social studies teacher in front of me studied American history at Yale during her summer vacation. She wanted to learn more so she’d be a better teacher. On her vacation! This sweet fellow behind me spent much of his time after school, tutoring students who needed that extra attention. Lots of time he didn’t get paid for. I’m so moved. Dear DOE, it’s so nice of you to get us all together so we can share our stories in line after line. This is mad collegial stuff. 

Thank you also for assigning us to a different school each week. It should be really great to get around the city and meet new people. Every school is so different in its own way. Thing is, the classes we get to cover when a teacher is out are so much bigger this year. I’ve already substituted in a class with 37 students. It’s awesome to meet so many students at one time. When I was teaching in my regular position, our classes only went up to 25 students. That was certainly challenging for me–to make sure every student was seen, heard and given any special attention he or she may have needed to insure success. But 37 or 40 students in a class! That’s amazing! There are bound to be some pretty cool video games going on in the back of the rooms. 

There are about 1500 teachers in the ATR and they are all at the Armory today. Attendance is mandatory. I look around. Geeze….most of them are at least 50 years old. I guess younger teachers are still in schools. Gosh…there’s supposed to be a hiring freeze. But everybody on line seems to know about a new teacher who’s just been hired in their old school. How come? Oh, I get it. They must want to get more youngsters in the school. After all, they can hire two brand new spanking teachers for the price of one more experienced teacher. Can you blame them? Of course, most of these young teachers are like deer in headlights for their first year or so of teaching. 

Big classes? Not for sissys, lemme tell ya. But these older teachers, with their lifetime of skills, cost more money to keep. I understand. With less money in the budget, it must be hard to figure out who gets to stay and who gets to be “excessed.” After all, even you guys at the DOE must hate these cuts. I know some of you have been great educators and I’m so glad you’re still there. Maybe you could teach some of these administrative guys (who’ve never worked in a classroom) about the importance of keeping class size down. I mean, what if they volunteered to maybe a 5% cut in their own hefty salaries. That one little step might help reduce class size. But that’s probably asking too much. Especially if they just put that new addition on their country home. The marble floor’s being shipped from Italy. Boy does that cost money! 

Still, it’s nice to know you guys at the DOE are putting us older teachers together. Kind of preparing us for assisted living, I guess. That’ll be fun. I won’t have to do my own housework. But as I’m looking around this Armory, I’d guess most of these teachers average about 20 years each of teaching experience. 20 years times 1500 teachers. Wow, that’s 33,000 teaching years! Imagine that! 33,000 teaching years are standing in line here in the Armory hoping to find one out of maybe 10 jobs available. 

You know what was going on 33,000 years ago? I just looked it up. 33,000 years ago Neanderthals were roaming the Earth. Imagine that. I mean…and I’m just thinking out loud here…33,000 teaching years standing in lines at the Armory…Class size is swelling. Neanderthals. Teachers. DOE. Go ahead–you make your own joke. 

In a couple of weeks, you’re going to send us to a new school every week. That should be fun. I sure hope you have enough time and money to pay all your DOE employees to herd us around town week after week. That’s really going to cost you and I certainly hope it’s not too much of a headache. 

Have a nice Fall. 



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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Latest ATR job fair is another dud

The following is the first offering of a new contributor to NYCATR.  His name is Angel Gonzalez.  He is a founding member of the GEM ATR Committee, and we hope he will continue to contribute his information and opinions to NYCATR.  

Sept. 13, 2011
Washington Heights Armory, 169th Street Manhattan 
Teachers line up outside the Armory, waiting to enter the job fair. 

Over 300 excessed teachers, members of the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) lined up for another DOE sponsored job fair today,  where most will not find permanent jobs.

It was another one of those summer mandatory futile job searches where ATR teachers are obligated to attend and where only a few will land a job. 

Most at today's job fair were clearly senior, veteran, higher-paid excessed teachers and over 50% were Black and Latino.

Principals generally will hire the younger inexperienced teachers who are paid less and tend not to know their labor rights--thus more compliant to the whims of administrators. Many of those young teachers are graduates of the Teach For America pool who are inculcated with anti-union and anti-veteran teacher propaganda. Principals, facing mounting budget deficits and cuts, would be foolish to hire seasoned teachers who earn salaries between $80 - 100K yearly when the bargain is to hire two at those prices! The deck has been unfairly stacked against older, higher-paid ATR teachers.

At thhis job fair today, some expressed the hope that maybe the city will offer them an early retirement buyout.

Others shared anger at the UFT leadership for abandoning them in the 2005 contract which bargained away their right to seniority rights transfer. Now, starting in October, those ATR teachers who can not find a steady classroom job will become substitutes who will be assigned weekly to different schools in their districts to cover for absent teachers. This agreement by the UFT with Mayor Bloomberg to turn ATR teachers into traveling subs might force many to quit due to the untenable and unpredictable situation. 

Bloomberg persists in seeking to eliminate tenure and the just "Last In First Out-LIFO" state protections. Should layoffs occur, without these protections, members of the ATR will surely be the first targeted for firings. 

Be on the look-out also for Bloomberg's allies in our schools--a nefarious group called E4E (Educators for Excellence). This group is aggressively organizing to win over the hearts and minds of our newer teachers in this deceptive anti-tenure and anti-experienced teacher campaign that unjustly and cruelly blames them, instead of government, for the problems in our public schools. 

In Chicago and Washington DC excessed teachers are given from six to nine months to find placements or else are fired. We can't let this happen here too. We can't allow our brothers and sisters to be dumped like collateral damage in this charter-privatization assault of our schools. Excessed teachers should be guaranteed a job elsewhere as was the case prior to 2005. As schools continue to be closed to be replaced with charters, hundreds more teachers will be excessed.  It is estimated that it costs the city today $100M yearly! 

As ATR teachers and as UFT members we will need to organize ourselves and mount the necessary political pressure to defend tenure and to restore seniority transfer rights.

Clearly no UFT officials or UFT organizers were present on the lines today to promote, defend and organize in the just interests of ATRs.

GEM ATR Committee organizers, were at today's job fair distributing leaflets and sharing our views.

ATRs R Us! Join the fight-back.

Be on the look-out for our upcoming meetings.

Contact the GEM-ATR committee at:

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

UFT refuses to help ATR teachers organize

On September 10th, NYCATR posted an open letter from an ATR teacher, Philip Nobile, to the UFT's Staff Director, LeRoy Barr. In the letter, Mr. Nobile requested that the UFT form a special chapter to represent ATR teachers. 

Mr. Nobile never received a reply from Mr. Barr.  Instead, he was referred to Elizabeth Perez, a UFT Special Representative. Below is an exchange of emails between Nobile, Perez, and yours truly, this time going by the name of Joseph Moses.

  Sept. 12, 2011
  FROM: Elizabeth Perez, UFT Special Representative
  TO: Philip Nobile, ATR Teacher

It is my understanding that the UFT has no plans to create an ATR Functional Chapter. All ATRs have Chapter Leaders with whom they can speak with, in the schools/buildings they are assigned.


  Sept. 12, 2011 
  FROM: Joseph Moses, teacher and publisher of NYCATR
  TO: Elizabeth Perez, UFT Special Representative

          Dear Ms. Perez
I understand that ATR teachers have chapter leaders with whom they can speak. However, when these teachers begin to be shifted about on a weekly basis, they will not really have access to a chapter leader who can help them. Perhaps a special chapter of ATR teachers could be formed before October 9 when the weekly reassignments are scheduled to begin.
          Joseph Moses

  Sept. 13, 2011
   FROM: Philip Nobile, ATR Teacher
   TO: Elizabeth Perez, UFT Special Representative
Hi Liz, 
Good to hear from you, though I am surprised that LeRoy deferred to you.Surely, he could have said the same thing himself. 
Naturally, I am disappointed by the news that the UFT is denying meaningful representation its neediest members. As you know, ATRs, like rubber roomers of yesteryear, are prime DOE targets. With the connivance of Tweed we are routinely kicked around in the press as no-good, unhirable teachers draining the city of $100 million a year. On top of this revolting predicament, and with UFT agreement, we are condemned to wander the wilderness of new schools every week punctuated by occasional mandated fairs for jobs that are rarely consummated.

Clearly, we nomads have special needs and interests that cannot possibly be satisfied by quickie conversations with ever shifting chapter leaders and DRs. Consequently, I do not understand why the UFT would not show ATRs, numbering around 2000, the same solidarity shown to 700 rubber roomers who were likewise separated from meaningful representation. Further, regular meetings at 52 or borough offices, would advantage the UFT as well. We can provide you with direct feedback and the informationgained would inform your negotiations on our behalf. A win-win situation, as they say.
ATRs are the least of the union brethren, and the pool is expanding every year. How will it look if the membership comes to believe that you do not care enough to recognize us via a functional chapter? Do you really want that fight? At the least, the UFT owes us an explanation as to why we don't count enough to meet with union leaders. 

Thanks for your consideration,


Report from the Field #4

A teacher named Tim sent us the following.  A few details have been changed to protect the innocent. 

I was put in excess after working at the The Founding Fathers Academy beginning the last day of February, 2011.  I started the 2010-2011 school year at Oil and Vinegar Academy and quickly asked to get out of there.  It took until February.  I was on ATR status after coming out of the rubber room in August of 2010.  Both schools last year were nightmare experiences.  At Founding Fathers I was teaching in 4 rooms with three preps, no class set of text books or other teaching tools, and I was the class's 4th teacher that year.  Oil and Vinegar  has no rules for students or teachers alike.  

As for job-searching, I sent the requests through the required websites and received no responses.  Friends who went to the job fairs told me they were a waste.  

I am a high school social studies teacher and was placed at Cooper HS.  I have been assigned to the dean's office and have been told I will serve in the SAVE room my entire schedule; the room will be located in the auditorium.  The school is sort of a mess; the principal seems OK but he plays the typical DOE game and being a transformation school, it is jumping through all kinds of hoops.  I have no real preference if they leave me there or send me elsewhere; it may be interesting to see all the different ways the DOE can find to screw up schools.  

To be honest, I am trying to get through this school year and transition out.  This is my 16th year.  

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Monday, September 12, 2011

Overweight ATR Teacher Finds a Job!

The following was sent to us by a teacher who would like to be known as Overweight and Way Over Forty.  It is a rags-to-riches story of an ATR teacher whose prayers were answered.  We hope that it will inspire others to keep the faith. 

I was excessed in June as a math coach. I am many years over 40, overweight, overopinionated, and expensive.

Like Ms. Life in Limbo, I panicked about being flung around each week due to child care issues. I spoke to the Brooklyn UFT office and the gal there did not even know how many districts composed the superintendency I could be tossed around in. I told her it was her job to know this and call me back right away. When she did my suspicion was confirmed--my fate was defined as the old BASIS superintendency. I live in Manhattan and could now be sent to the south side of Staten Island on a whim. Brooklyn Unity gal was indifferent to this.

Well, I didn't go to any job fairs. I went camping with my daughter. But, I did register right away with the Open Market and post my resume. I also did follow up phone calls. I applied to 7 schools that were reasonably convenient.  I also faxed my resume to a few schools and sent emails to the principals on DOE email to make sure they looked at my application. 

The results: 

1. One very prestigious school that I hadn't even applied to called me for an interview based on my on-line resume.

2. One school said they would get back to me and didn't.

3. A very wonderful, supportive alternative school demo-lessoned and interviewed me. The school is 6 blocks from my daughter's school in Manhattan. I am now hired there under Open Market transfer on their galaxy table. BUT MOST IMPORTANT, I HAVE A PARKING SPOT! 

The principal stated that my credentials coupled with my persistence of politely calling, faxing, and emailing made me stand out. I also had written letters of recommendation from supervisors and a "Brag Book" about me that I would open to relevant areas during the interview. 

I was in constant prayer on this one, and several friends were also hoping for Divine Intervention, I think I may have had It on this one, and frankly, that is what it takes. My situation is somewhere between lucky and blessed or both.

I'm praying for all of you now.

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