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Saturday, February 4, 2012

ATR teachers return to original placements and ponder end-of-year evaluations

A classroom at Washington Irving High School

Thomas Forbes, a veteran NYCATR correspondent, filed this report from Washington Irving H.S., the school where his ATR odyssey began this fall.

This week the members of the ATR club were returned to our first placements, mine being Washington Irving HS.  I have traveled to a total of 13 schools, eleven of which were nice places to be due their ability to select students. The tone and respect which are evident in these schools is due less to the quality of teaching, and more to the quality of the student.  I have met a multitude of interesting and fascinating students and teachers alike.  Administrators are consistently distant and contact with UFT representatives has overall been a very negative or missing element of my school year.  The state of the union at the school level is dismal. 
At Irving, the recent announcement of the school being phased out has lowered staff morale. On Monday there was a staff development day and the first workshop was centered around data and how it should be used to help your school.  Within minutes, questions and comments were coming from a variety of the teachers.  The presenters from a contracted organization were humble enough to give up and not push the topic too much.  Staff wanted to know why this was not presented a couple of years ago before their fate was sealed.  The various presenters worked with small, willing groups of teachers for the remainder of their time. 
One reason why this sort of debacle happens is because of the way administration is structured within the school.  A very nice but not qualified person who assumes the role as business manager is performing the role of the APO.  He is most likely not credentialed as a supervisor and should not be making educational decisions related to staff development, curriculum or much at all beyond the finances of the school.  I was disappointed by the chapter leader’s response that he should be getting paid $30,000 a year more for doing the job. 
There are also a very confusing and not effectively managed array of small learning communities overlapping with departments.  AP’s, master teachers, and learning community coordinators all make this administration very top-heavy--a hallmark characteristic of Bloomberg’s management style in the DOE.
Top-heavy management
The real tragedy I discovered is that the Special Education Science teacher I have been covering for all week has been on “jury duty” since September. The students have received none, I mean zero, instruction, and were begging me to be their teacher.  They all took the Living Environment Regents in January and all failed.  I think it is a “repeater” class.  They all passed with a 75 and received a P for their lab work even though they did none.  It would take a strong teacher and a few weeks to get these classes in line.  I imagine these kids will end up getting an IEP diploma if they earn all their credits. 
I spoke about this with Henry Rodriguez, the HR person from the network who was in the school on Thursday counseling people as to seniority and their future employment plans in the DOE.  I chuckled at some of the comments I heard him tell other staff members: missing personal files, where databases are being checked and attempts are being made to find missing information, we want you to finish in this school for the next three years and we like your energy and nonsensical things like that.  He was aware of the science vacancy and his response was that there is not any money.  I just sat there and thought about all the money Bloomberg has wasted, the way staff is allocated within the school and the phasing out of the school has not yet been approved by PEP.  I guess we all know the vote of that group anyway.
The ironic part of this story is that this very personable, intelligent and gentle man who is Principal is apparently getting rewarded for running the school into the ground and failing to enforce any meaningful semblance of the discipline code.  I have heard “FU” being said to a half a dozen teachers this week by students.  Students hanging in the hallways, coming late, and leaving early are the norm.  When probably 25% of the student body cuts their last class or two, and the same amount miss their first and/or second class--how do you ever expect the school to achieve?  It was set up to fail as I posted on last September.  As an outsider, it appears the Principal did exactly what was expected of him--run the school into the ground--and he will be rewarded for his efforts.
The ironic part of this is that this Principal will end up giving my end of the year rating because I will have spent more than 20 day in his school according to Amy Arundall of the UFT.  She tells me this after telling me that the DOE and the UFT have not determined how end of the year ratings will be conducted.   They are making this stuff up as they go--or maybe they have it all planned out and are continuing to run circles around the Unity-led UFT.

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