Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Because An ATR By Any Other Name Would Feel Just As Bad

'A rose by any other name would smell as sweet" is a frequently referenced part of William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet ...The reference is often used to imply that the names of things do not affect what they really are.' (here). 

I'm sure everyone is hitting the blogs to find out what happened at the UFT's Delegate Assembly last night. Why, you may ask, would I be writing about some Delegate Assembly meeting? Well, new details came out about staff placement at schools that are effected by NYCDOE School Restructuring Plan (here).  According to the Chalkbeat piece describing the deal as these two "Renewal" Schools:
"Teachers who choose not to reapply or who are not rehired will be placed in other Brooklyn high schools, according to the teachers union."
You may recall, the press reported that teachers at Automotive High and Boys and Girls High Schools would be required to reapply for the jobs next September but that it would be OK because these teachers would not become ATRs if they were not selected for the positions. Remember that?

Yeah, I do too.

As the press reported, they would, instead, be placed at a school somewhere within Brooklyn.

Well the specifics of that agreement draw a slightly different picture! As the president explained to the Delegate Assembly last night, teachers who are not rehired, or who don't apply, to those schools will be placed at another school somewhere in the borough of Brooklyn for only one year at a time. At the end of that time, those teachers will be shipped out to another school.

And when that year is up, they will be shipped out to another school somewhere in Brooklyn. And when that year is up, they'll be placed again.

This will happen five times. Over the next five years, teachers who currently teach at Auto or B&G HS  who are not rehired or do not reapply, will be put on year to year placements, spending each year at a different school somewhere within the borough.

As they will not be regularly assigned teachers, it seems they will not have some of the rights of regularly assigned teachers. For instance, can be given a full teaching program at their new school? Or will they be treated as full-time subs to 'cover' classes for assigned teachers who are absent? If history is an indicator, the answer seems lean toward the latter.

And when that five years is up? Will they they'll be placed into the reserve and become ATRs? They answer seems, very much, to be yes.

What the president did not tell the delegates last night -what not many people in this transient school system of ours did not immediately realize- is that this arrangement is the same exact arrangement that ATRs had just four short years ago.

That's right! Before the agreement to place ATRs into a weekly rotation assignment was made, teachers from the reserve pool were placed at schools for one year at a time -just like this deal spells out. During that year, some were given programs and some were assigned to sub classes. After that year was up, teachers were placed (not assigned, but placed) in a different school.

So this deal -the one for Automotive and Boys & Girls High School- does seem to be to place teachers into the ATR. They will officially be there in five years. But, starting in September of 2015, they will be the same ATRs that existed pre-2010.

Does an ATR by any other name feel as bad? I'm thinking yes.

And what kind of chance will they get at these 'new' schools at which they will be placed? According to this from Chalkbeat:

Michael Shadrick, principal of Williamsburg Preparatory School, which is located near Automotive High School, said he doubted that other principals would be “chomping at the bit” to receive teachers who were not rehired at one of the two bottom-ranked schools. While some of those teachers might be skilled educators, principals “would much rather hire people they want and know,"  ... “If they send the teachers here, we’ll give them a fair shot,” he said. “But hopefully it won’t come to that.” (emphasis added) 

I think that says all we need to know about what fate awaits these wonderful skilled educators who will be released from Auto and Boys and Girls.  With or without the labels, they'll still be ATRs.

Look folks, there are some good ideas with this new school improvement plan and those ideas need to be given a chance to grow and to succeed. But this cannot -cannot- come at the expense of contributing to a 'blame the teacher' narrative that has caused way too much damage to schools in this city and across this country for far too long.

Displacing  these teachers because their school leaders -at all levels and for several years- failed to adhere to their responsibilities is just plain nuts.

But allowing those teachers to be displaced,  as our union has done, when none of this is their fault at the classroom level -and in the very same manner as ATRs were treated just a few years ago- is a DOEnut.

In fact, it may just be the doenut of the year!


  1. It's time teachers realize they are all just a 'seniority step' away from becoming ATRs...and, BTW, the union condoned and created the weekly rotation.
    It is unfortunate and I'm sure those teachers at Automotive High School thought that it would NEVER happen to them...This is what we got for keeping Mulgrew and voting on a substandard contract. For those that are interested, we have formed a new group called the ATR Alliance and can be found on facebook... All ATRs are welcome.

    1. forming an ATR alliance just implies that you have accepted your role and are here to stay. dont single yourselves out or you'll put the idea out there that you're different. and you're not. a teacher is still a teacher.

    2. Until ATRs have a voice that can be heard, things like this will happen to teachers. It's only when a group makes a big deal about an abuse that that abuse goes away. My two cents there.

  2. If it quacks like a duck, sounds like a duck, walks like a duck, ... it's s duck. Not William Shakespeare, but just plain William! Decisions are made by true leadership all the time. Everyone else just complains. Why not come up with realistic and practical solutions to offer? If the author of this blog truly cares about teachers, then why all the negativity? Give Solutions that our leadership can work towards!

    1. The author of this blog thanks you for your comment, reminds you that the general topic of urban schools that are in trouble is somewhat negative in the first place and would like to assert, in no uncertain terms, that leadership has never given a vehicle for listening to solutions to which they themselves have not already acceded. If they did, the general advice the author of this blog would give would be to:
      1. Protect teachers.
      2. Demand good leaders and a fair placement of students
      3. Protect teachers.

      That formula would require assignment, not placement, to a new school and has proven to advance the needs of students since before the days of Thomas Aquinas.