Friday, September 19, 2008

More Voices of ATR's

Comments from ATR's on the ICE blog

As an ATR I was looking to the UFT for help. But when the New York Teacher came in the mail on Sept. 12th there was not one story about the ATR situation in it. It was then I realized that we had all been sold out by the UFT. I called the UFT district office last week and John Settle got on the phone. He is a special rep who makes over $100,000 a year.All I got was double talk which is probably a requirement for getting his position. The best thing all 1,400 ATR's can do is file a class action suite against the UFT and the DOE, there is strength in numbers. I am sure that the UFT would not like it if we could find a way to withhold our dues to them. This would be a million and a half dollars a year. Why should we pay dues to them they are not representing us.

I am an ATR. My brothers have been NYPD cops for ten years. One taught H.S. and one was a para who finished his B.S. degree after becoming a member of the NYPD. He subs on his days off. They both married their college sweet hearts who both teach elementary school in Brooklyn. I have another brother who teaches special ed in Florida. My family, for some reason is full of teachers and police officers. In my opinion, years ago, your parents taught you that going to college would ensure that you became something other than a civil servant. I suppose it was Mom's way of saying that there are different rungs on the social ladder and that in her view, those who were educated seemed to have more in life than your average city worker. We saw it that way as well. This is why all of her children went to college. As the years went by, we noticed that the value of a degree seemed to diminish. I saw friends leaving teaching for jobs as firemen and police officers. I saw friends that went to law school become police officers instead of pursuing their dreams of being a lawyer. As we matured, we began to look at the benefits of the various fields of employment. I was somewhat surprised to see how many more benefits that your basic civil servant had in their contracts with the city than teachers do. Before I was an ATR, I was surprised when my sister in laws ran out of sick days as new teachers who had just given birth. They had to borrow sick days. I then realized that we do not have "paid" maternity leave. Should I point at a pregnant colleague's bulge and say that I hope they get better soon? When my sister in laws had their second child, they started losing days of pay. They had not caught up yet to their borrowed days. I once asked Randy in person why we do not have paid maternity leave and she said that it never goes through each time they ask for it. I doubt that she ever really makes it a union issue. When one of my sister in laws needed heart surgery right after giving birth, she went to 60% of her salary for six months. After six months, if she did not return to work, she would receive no pay. My brother was working every second job that he could to pay his mortgage. Other unions have unlimited sick and paid maternity leave. Most also have a heart fund. We do not in the UFT. Do we ever ask for it? We have no worker's compensation. When I was assaulted at work by a student, I had to pay every hospital and doctor co-pay and every physical therapy co-pay for the six months that I required it. The DOE will only reimburse up to $700 in co-pays for LOD injury unless it is an assault. Well, the student said that he was only joking around when he dove at me from behind and tackled me down to the ground. Eureka! Since he said that he was just playing around, I guess that it was an accident. So it cost me to be the victim of a crime at work. My brothers often ask me a few times before they understand the nuances. They ask things like, "So who got collared for assaulting you?" I just have to explain that I walk past the student every day at work and he laughs at me each time. That sort of, "You aint nothing sucker, I got over" sort of smirk. Why do I have to see this student again? What union would allow that? Other city jobs have a 20 year retirement. A teacher starting out now has at least four years of college before employment, the related expenses, and years of night school just to obtain the final certification for teaching. While in school, you learn that the time spent in college is called opportunity cost by an economist. Anytime that you are obligated to spend other than working is a lost opportunity to make money. Get it? Those first four or five years of school could have been the first few years of full time employment in another city job that has a 20 year retirement. You actually incur an expense (tuition) for those years of study as you also lose money and time towards retirement by not being employed. If Mom's advice were correct, the pay off would come when you acquire your degree. However, you find that you are making the same amount of salary as your friends who became city employees such as NYPD, Corrections, Transit, Sanitation, etc. You are surprised when they compare their contract talks with ours because of all of the sacrifice that we make before employment. You are more surprised when your friends have purchased homes years before you and that you paid $400,000 for the same semi-attached home as the one they paid $180,000 for only seven years earlier. So now you realize that while you sat in school, you were also losing money in future disposable income. Your mortgage payments are more than twice as much as theirs. Now, years later, they are retiring. Some have bachelors degrees that they obtained at night. They are starting second careers as teachers in places like Middletown N.J. and Long Island. That raises my eyebrows. Their mortgages were refinanced to 15 year rates at lower interest when you were just learning about buying a home. Their houses are paid off and were sold as a down payment on a big detached home in New Jersey. Their new mortgage is still lower than yours. You wonder who the smarter person actually is. If you start teaching at 22, you will work 33 years before you can receive retirement pay. You do the math for when it was 62. Some people answer that we have summers off and a shorter work day. I answer with, "How much work do you take home and how much time do you spend of your own time performing work that is related to your day job?" Does a sanitation worker take garbage home? Does a fireman have to clean trucks and stow hoses at home? It would be called over time pay in any other union. Your lawyer does work at home. It is called the bill that you receive that makes your jaw drop while looking at it wondering if he really put in that much work on your single case. They say their job is more dangerous. I ask them how many times that they were wrestling with a 19 year old that was trying to cut them with a box cutter at work. Zero for them, two for me. Some of them have asked me what was happening since they read that they were going to "Tear your school down and build another one." I laugh and have to explain it best to them. I tell them to imagine that they are a cop for 18 years. The NYPD brings four new units into your station house. They tell you that you are now called an Absent Patrolman Reserve AKA an APR. They tell you that you have a chance of being hired in one of the new units in the station house but that you then observe thereafter that hardly anyone is hired as part of the new staff. So, they tell you to start writing a resume and going around on your own time asking the commanding officer of each station house if you can work for him because you are better than the other candidates that are lined up outside. You then say, "Oh well, at least I am getting paid." You then read the paper and your Police commissioner and the Mayor is saying that you are not working hard enough to be a Patrolman in a new station house so they want to fire you after one year of not finding work on your own time. You then read that your own union has screamed, "Never!" about many issues that they gave to the city anyway in the long run. I then say that with 19 1/2 years, you find yourself laid off. They usually say thing like, "No way man, they can't do that!" Well, not to you with your union but to us, yes they can and perhaps will. A childhood friend was a teacher for 20 years. He was fired for allegedly being insubordinate to a regional superintendent. He swore at his hearing that the woman was a nut who was lying and making the whole thing up. She swore that he did act insubordinate in a hallway when she told him to go back in an office and to stop talking to a colleague in the halls. I suppose that asking the question, "I am sorry Mam, who exactly are you?" is a reason to lose everything that you ever worked for. He has been unemployed for a few years now as a teacher. When he walks into the UFT office, the reps there throw their hands up and say out loud, "Oh boy, he is here again?" They try to actually get up and shut their door. It causes him to get so upset that his voice goes up. They then start saying, "Sir, you are yelling at me again!" He can't understand how after her testimony, that the words of Joan Mahon-Powell are still considered truthful in his case. That the UFT acts like he is an annoyance. Does anyone need a reminder of who she was. Just Google her name. If a cop is accused of cursing at a high school student, if substantiated, would probably lead to the loss of a few vacation days. For us, you would have to go home and tell your kids that Daddy lost his teaching job because they believed a kid that lied and said that you cursed at them. Now, we will lose this house if I can't find work and you will have to move away from all of your friends. This is exactly what happened to my buddy who I mentioned above. For the both of us, making it out of the housing projects and having the money for college required four years in the military. I have never mentioned the things that I have done and seen in those years to anyone unless they are close to me. My comrades at the VFW post know by my facial expressions. They see the same look in the mirror at times. Experiencing so much pain and coming close to death several times just to have the money to go to school and become a teacher? When you think of that, it makes it even worse to think of those years as part of the total loss I would suffer if the UFT failed to represent me like they did for my buddy. It just amazes anyone who hears his story. Everyone except the UFT. This former Marine and former Army Green Beret and now former teacher is doing landscaping work right now to pay his bills and feed his kids. A 50 year old landscaper with two masters degrees and a veteran of two branches of the military. One would never figure that that six foot tall light skinned black man with the weed whacker outside your window-- who seems to be mumbling to himself is actually mumbling the words "Damn UFT." My sister in law asked me yesterday what exactly an ATR was. I sort of looked at her funny because they just brought a new school into her building. I told her that the union membership better start worrying about issues that are not affecting themselves before the DOE's divide and conquer strategy sees them out of a job with some last minute "minor" change to the next contract. Yesterday, while speaking with my sister in law, when I got to the part about how we as a union do not have the right to grieve a false allegation by a supervisor with the letter in your file clause and how we keep giving back benefits and time, my mother finally chimed in on the conversation. In her best Brooklyn Jewish mother accent she said, "Stop acting like a kevetch and be a mench. Stop crying about it already. I can't take it anymore. You should have been like your brothers and become a cop." I just gave her that quizzical look. "She then said, "Oy, if looks could kill." as she walked out of the kitchen exhaling in mock frustration.


Well, I finally saw some tears flowing. Many letters were given out at Tilden yesterday and today. Veteran teachers are all being assigned as ATR's to various locations. Since they all must appear on Monday, the number of teachers who got letters through out the week are all here today, Friday the 19th. I can hear a teacher crying next door as I write this. If she wanted to leave Tilden, she would have asked for a seniority transfer years ago. She loves the kids in this community and wants to stay. She has over 20 years experience. The locations are, well, to be blunt the locations that parents usually use the no child left behind act to get their kids away from. Seniority transfers used to allow you to pay your dues in a tougher school then move somewhere that the kids really think that the N word is really a bad word. Now it is the opposite. You work in a tough neighborhood for twenty years with dreams of finishing your career in that nice school near your home in the borough or place that you live in and as you walk out today past that new young teacher hired by a new school, you realize that you are on your way into the belly of the beast. The place where that younger teacher should have been paying their dues at this very moment. I feel bad for the ones who voted no on the last contract. For the ones who voted yes and were dumb enough to tell me that you did? LOL seems appropriate.


1 comment:

  1. At South Shore on Friday, a notice was posted over the timeclock that all ATR's, with or without programs, had to report for a meeting with the principal at 2:15. Mind you, our day ends at 2:25. So all 20 ATR's gather and wait and wait and wait. (This after a really horrible day of anxiety and tears. Normally nice tempered friends were at each others' throats.) So we wait. And wait some more. Finally, after someone called downstairs, the principal and APO arrive with the dreaded pile of letters. Some ATR's had already left in anger since it was now OUR time. There was a rumor that Charlie Turner, our union rep, would be there too but he was a no show. My envelope was one of the first and since I could deal with the tension no longer, I ran out opening my letter as I did so I have no idea what news others got or what the reaction was. On my way out I ran into two former students who were so glad to see me but I couldn't talk for the lump in my throat. I never said goodbye to anyone but the wonderful safety agent at the front desk whose two daughters were in my AP classes a few years ago. South Shore is my neighborhood school; the kids there are my neighbors' kids. I had always intended to end my career there. And when none of us were able to get jobs at the 8 new schools upstairs, it was clear that we don't count for anything. I report Monday to a school I don't know, to administrators who will do whatever they like with me; I could be a classroom teacher out of license or a day to day sub or a much hated competitor for classes in license. After almost 20 years of excellent teaching, mentoring, etc., what a pathetic way to almost end a career. I wish I could just go away. Teaching is my identity and Bloomklein and the Randi and the union have destroyed my identity.

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