Updated with the city’s response: UFT President Michael Mulgrew told excessed teachers on Tuesday that they would be offered a severance package as a part of the proposed contract between the teachers union and the city—a provision that Chalkbeat reported Monday night and was not disclosed for days after both sides’ celebratory announcement.
New details from a memo sent from Mulgrew to absent teacher reserve members, and information provided by union officials, reveal that the excessed teachers would also have stronger job protections than were originally reported or acknowledged by officials.
At last week’s announcement, officials implied that the ATR pool—which includes 1,200 teachers without full-time positions but who are on the city payroll—would be reduced partially by relying on an expedited termination hearing process. The excessed teachers deemed ready for the classroom would be sent to schools with vacancies, but principals who felt the teacher was not a good fit would be able to send the teacher back.
City officials initially said that two rejections would trigger an expedited termination hearing and schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña suggested that principals would be able to move quickly to reject a teacher they didn’t want.
“If they go visit a school and the principal says, ‘OK, I’ll try her out,’ but after a day, ‘I don’t want her,’ it’s gone,” Fariña said.
It’s true that a principal will be able to remove teachers who aren’t the right fit in schools they’re assigned to, a union spokeswoman said today. Those teachers will return to the ATR pool, but there is not limit to the number of times they could be given additional temporary placements, she said.
And today’s memo to ATRs explains that a teacher would only be eligible to be brought up on termination charges under that expedited hearing if misconduct two “successive” principals document them for misconduct. That means that if two out of three principals document misconduct—as opposed to two in a row—the teacher would still be permitted to fill vacancies at another school, making it much less likely that the new hearing process on its own will significantly reduce the number of teachers in the pool.
City officials disputed the union’s take on the issue, saying that ATR teachers merely need to be documented twice in a school year.
“We are reducing the Department’s spending in the ATR pool by helping good teachers get back into the classroom while expediting the process to move out teachers who don’t belong in the profession,” said spokeswoman Devora Kaye. “And as the Chancellor affirmed last week, we are doing so while respecting mutual-consent hiring.”
In the five days since de Blasio and Mulgrew congratulated one another for agreeing on a framework for public school teachers’ first contract since 2005, both sides have been slow to provide details of the deal. They praised the agreement last week for including raises, allowing for innovative school scheduling, and putting the city school system on a path toward “true reform.”
In today’s memo, Mulgrew blamed the press for propagating “some myths” about a new arrangement to place them back into city schools. Just 12 hours earlier, the union declined to discuss details about the ATR arrangement, including the severance package for excessed teachers.
Critics pounced on the new details as evidence that Mayor Bill de Blasio was purposefully withholding less-flattering information about the contract.
Mulgrew’s full note to ATRs is below:
When the previous administration let it be known that it intended to summarily fire all members in the Absent Teacher Reserve, we as a union made a commitment to stand by our members. We held true to that commitment throughout our negotiations, and the results are in this new contract.
The contract preserves your rights and improves your chances of permanent placement. And, of course, you will participate in the contractual raises and working-condition changes that we won for all members. The press coverage, however, has included some myths about how ATRs are treated under the new contract and misconceptions abound. We want to be sure you have the facts and know your rights.
Myth #1 (the biggest one!):
The city is going to fire the ATRs.
No UFT member, whether an ATR or otherwise, will ever be automatically fired. Any ATR may accept, at his or her sole discretion, a voluntary severance package based on years of service.
Schools still won’t hire ATRs because they are too expensive.
Under the new contract, schools that select ATRs for permanent placement will not have that ATR’s salary included in the school’s average teacher salary calculation, which means that principals no longer have a reason to pass over more senior educators in favor of newer hires with lower salaries.
The contract includes a new way to get rid of ATRs.
Not true. ATRs actually get improved access to job placements. Between Sept. 15 and Oct. 15, 2014, the DOE must send ATRs on interviews for vacancies in their districts and boroughs, and ATRs must attend all of those interviews. After Oct. 15, ATRs are required to accept provisional assignments to schools with a vacancy in their license area within their district or borough. If there is no school with a vacancy in their district or borough, they will continue to be rotated within their district.
ATRs are going to lose their due process rights.
No ATR can be disciplined or fired unless a hearing officer decides that is appropriate in a 3020-a hearing. An ATR who has been placed in a vacancy and is removed by two successive principals for documented misconduct — not pedagogy — may be subject to discipline. The DOE must prove the charge of misconduct through an expedited 3020-a process.
The new contract agreement between the UFT and the DOE, which will go out for your ratification soon, is a strong contract for all our members, including all our ATRs.
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