It's teacher hunting season!

Friday, October 21, 2011

ATR Plight & Tribunal of Bloomberg's DOE Hits Huffington Post & GothamSchools Big Leagues: Educating for Democracy: The People's Trial ...

Joel Shatzky in Huffington Post, "Educating for Democracy: The People's Trial of Mayor Bloomberg" in Huffington Post, October 16, 2011 addressed the absent teacher reserve (ATR) fiasco and the demise in general of public education under the leadership of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (the Coalition for Public Education (CPE)).
Shortly after Mayor Michael Bloomberg assumed control of the New York City school system, he presented his programs as a national leader in "educational reform." But there has been evidence in the New York public schools in the recent past of cheating on standardized tests by teachers and supervisors.

Moreover, the much publicized "success" of the mayor's program has been in part based on inflated test scores and the "dumbing down" of the tests themselves. Yet under the mayor's "leadership" Bloomberg continues to close down "failing" schools and replace them with charter schools causing wide-spread disruption to students, parents and veteran teachers. As a result of these closings, some of the most valuable and experienced teachers lose their positions and end up in "ATR" (Absent Teacher Reserve) where they are misused as substitute teachers with no permanent position since the principals are reluctant to hire high-salary veterans and prefer to employ cheaper, inexperienced teachers to meet their "bottom line." This is the business model of education that the Bloomberg Administration has imposed.

At a "trial" held at DC 37 of AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees sponsored by the Coalition for Public Education and hosted by Sam Anderson, a noted educational leader dedicated to wresting the school system out of mayoral control, testimony was given by dozens of parents, teachers and concerned educators describing the negative effect the mayor's "educational reform" has produced in what seems to be a part of a nationwide attempt to privatize the public schools, deskill teachers, strip them of their union rights, and firmly establish a two-tier educational system: one for the privileged and one for everyone else.

The all-day trial was adjudicated by such well-known legal authorities as Thomas Mariadson, of the Asian-American Legal Defense Fund, Esmeralda Simmons, of the Center for Law and Social Justice, Damon Hewitt of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and attended by City Councilman Charles Barron. Angel Gonzalez, a member of GEM (Grassroots Education Movement) described in detail the destructive effect of school closings in which a disproportionate number of Black and Latino students are pushed out of their neighborhood schools to accommodate charter schools. This process not only results in damage to the students but a disproportionate number of Black and Latino teachers end up as ATR's further diminishing the ethnic diversity of the system. Among other results of the co-location of charter schools in district schools is that they-the charters- cut back on needed programs in bi-lingual and special needs education.

Another aspect of the damage the Bloomberg administration has done to the NYC public schools was revealed by a teacher-parent whose daughter goes to Bronx Regional High School, the school attended by Nicole Suriel, the girl who was tragically drowned on a class beach visit last summer. The parent testified that he had repeatedly warned the school administration and Department of Education of neglect and indifference to student well-being at the school and blames the Administration for fostering this negligent attitude that resulted in the girl's death.

The teacher also reported the conditions at the GED Plus school where he teaches which is located at Bronx Regional High School. The school is intended to offer a chance for high school dropouts ages 17-21, to get their General Education diplomas. However, according to the teacher's testimony, the school has no library, no arts programs, no gym, no special literacy program, no ELL for students whose first language is not English, and 35 in a class.

There were many other charges of mismanagement of the public schools by the Bloomberg administration. These included the dismissal of a twelve-year special ed veteran when the DOE discovered she hadn't taken a foreign language course in college; the excessive number of summonses and arrests of students of color where not only security personnel but also regular police with firearms patrol the former Brandeis High School. It had once been one of the best high schools in the City but was closed down so that a charter school can be "co-located" at the facility on the Upper West Side where the workers and teachers will be non-unionized. The testimony throughout the time I attended presented a consistent pattern of inadequate attention to and neglect of schools that desperately need more support.

And while these schools are "failing," Councilman Barron reported that during the period of the Bloomberg administration's control of the schools the DOE budget has increased from $11 billion to $24 billion while only 23% of the students graduating from the public schools are prepared for college. With a great many of the services for the city schools now "contracted out," Barron wonders where so much of this money is going with so little effect on improving public education.

At the same time, as pointed out by Leonie Haimson, a nationally known parent-advocate and Executive Director of Class Size Matters, a clearinghouse for information on class size, the actual number of students in classrooms K-12 has increased under the Bloomberg administration, despite the fact that $650 million each year for the past three were specifically appropriated by the State legislature under the Contracts for Excellence law to reduce class size. Moreover, Haimson pointed out that several programs that have no research to support them are being vigorously expanded under the Mayor's watch: paying students for improving test scores and increasing the use of on-line (computer-based) instruction.

An alternative to such destructive practices was offered at the hearing in an ICOPE (Independent Commission on Public Education) video created by a group of high school students who actually asked other students what they felt would improve their schools. The video, based on a study called YRNES (Youth Researchers for a New Education System) found that in addition to wanting to be treated with greater respect by teachers and other staff, about 80% of those students questioned expressed an interest in participating in leadership roles in their school. Perhaps if other school administrators, besides the Mayor, heeded the students' request, there might be some marked improvement in their performance in learning.

If the "Trial of Mayor Bloomberg" showed anything, it was that his programs were more expensive, more destructive, and more demoralizing with no significant improvement in learning outcome than prior to his administration. The sentence for what he's done is that he should be dismissed from his position as head school administrator so that more positive outcomes can be produced for our City's young learners: student, parent and teacher-based, not business-based education.

* * * *

Hollywood respected older teachers; DOE would put Miss Bishop into ATR status; UFT would dismiss her plea for an elected representative

Among points raised in a Gotham Schools article by Rachel Cromidas,
"At union meeting, jobless teachers decry ATR deal 'shell game'" there was attention to a raucous ATR meeting, SEE THE FULLER ARTICLE BEYOND THE FOLLOWING EXCERPTS [SUBTITLES mine, Ed.]:

Amy Arundell, a UFT special representative, told the roughly 100 teachers at the meeting that the point of moving teachers weekly is to position them for jobs that could open up at the schools where they are temporarily assigned. The previous arrangement, in which members of the ATR pool often stayed at one school for an entire year, allowed principals to use them as free labor, she said, without necessarily incentivizing them to offer the ATR teachers permanent jobs.

Above frequent interruptions from the standing-room-only crowd, Arundell told teachers they must report to their new assignments next week, even if the principals at the schools they were assigned to for September tell them to stay put. She and several teachers in the room said some principals are asking ATRs to ignore their DOE placements and stay on, in violation of the agreement.

She encouraged the teachers to “be proactive” with the principals and press them to find money in their limited budgets to create permanent positions.
“Otherwise, you can’t stay,” she said. “Unless a principal tells you, ‘I hire you,’ Central DOE won’t know that a principal wants to keep you. You know that saying, ‘Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?’ That’s true here.”

That logic sounded hollow for a Manhattan-based teacher who said after the meeting that the normally “pro-teacher” union had agreed to a deal that does not put ATRs’ best interests first.

“This weekly assignment nonsense is meant to aggravate people so they get disgusted and leave,” she said.

During the meeting, attendees called on the UFT to create a chapter just for ATRs and to file a discrimination lawsuit against the city on their behalf. But the union officials present, which included LeRoy Barr, the UFT staff director, rejected those requests, arguing that discrimination is difficult to prove and that chapter leaders at the schools where ATRs are temporarily assigned are equipped to advocate for them.

Arundell urged teachers to contact their temporary chapter leaders with complaints about hostile principals or requests to teach subjects out of their license.

But several teachers complained during the meeting that they had reached out to the UFT and the DOE with complaints, and received no response.

“It may be news for some of you, but there is not union representation in every school,” one teacher called out from the audience. “I was at one school that had no chapter leader.”

Several teachers complained about being assigned by their new principals to lunch duty or clerical work, which Arundell said was not part of their contract. Others spoke of being asked to take on subjects they are not licensed to teach.

One Manhattan-based librarian, who came to the Brooklyn meeting because the Manhattan meeting is not until next week, said her current principal is using her as an assistant to two kindergarten teachers at an elementary school because the school’s library is closed.

“I take the kids to the bathroom every period. That’s about all I do. My principal said to me, ‘I don’t want you here. You’re not going to work anyway.’” She paused for emphasis and whispered, “I think it’s because of my gray hair.”

Teachers throughout the room clapped when one attendee called on the union to file a class-action lawsuit against the city. Union officials shot down the idea, saying that courts require a high burden of proof for discrimination suits that the union would be unlikely to meet.

“But it’s happening everywhere,” another teacher called out. “Stop the shell game that’s taking place.”

Several teachers in attendance said they would like the union to create an ATR teacher chapter to represent them — something the union officials said was not likely to happen.

As the 2.5-hour-long meeting wrapped up, Vincente DeSiano, an elementary school teacher in the ATR pool, collected names and contact information from the roughly 40 people still present, after union officials said they would not provide information about who had attended.

“We have power that we don’t realize,” DeSiano said. “I want us all to be able to share information with each other and see how we can help the situation.”

See the original large article at Gotham Schools.

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