Friday, July 20, 2007

Excessing


The following was sent by a correspondent:

Let's open up the subject of Excessing, the latest thunderbolt in the contemptible attacks on the teaching profession by Joel Klein and his corporate handlers.

Our present contract establishes an excessing procedure in Art. 17 B, Rules 4-6 and 11. These rules state that the DOE will place us into new jobs. Please note that the DOE is the active "Placer" and the teacher is the passive "Placee." (The fact that we can, and most likely will, end up as ATRs is a secondary issue I'll address later.) So, we have:

Rule 4. Teachers in excess ... must be placed in vacancies to the fullest degree possible .....
Rule 5. ....... If there are no openings or vacancies in the district/superintendency, the teacher shall be excessed from the district to a vacancy in the region.
Rule 6. The central board has the responsibility for placing teachers who ... cannot be accommodated by their own district/superintendency, if vacancies exist, within the region ........
Rule 11. Unless a principal denies the placement, an excessed teacher will be placed by the Board into a vacancy within his/her district/superintendency; or if such a vacancy is not available, then in a vacancy within his/her region. The Board will place the excessed teacher who is not so placed in an ATR position in the school from which he/she is excessed, or in another school in the same district or superintendency.

After the original excessing letter, we received other emails and packages from the DOE that have broken with the contract entirely and shifted the onus of finding a new job right onto the excessed teacher him/herself. They did it through lies and obfuscation. Take this one: "As you may know, the current UFT contract has changed the way in which excessed teachers and staff seek and receive new positions." The current UFT contract has most certainly NOT changed the way teachers and staff seek and receive new positions. Article 17.B says numerous times that excessed teachers will be placed. And in the DOE's recent emails and written materials, there's a consistent and not-so-subtle shift in language from the passive voice (i.e., teachers "will be placed") to very active orders indeed. By way of example, here are their instructions in an email of a week or two ago:

1) Register for the Open Market Hiring System
2) Attend the July 10th job fair . . . bring a copy of your excess letter.
4) Download the 2007 Placement Guide . . . . This guide contains all the information you will need to conduct your job search . . . Use it as a reference throughout your search.

In no way can these "orders" be interpreted as "options." We are told to Register, Attend, Visit, and Download, no ands, ifs, buts about it. And just this week they've sent us a 23-page booklet that has to be seen to be believed! It's as outrageous and demeaning as I've come across, a real wolf in sheep's clothing. Not only does it fly in the face of the contract with these tidbits:

"Although it is ultimately your responsibility to secure a new position within NYC" (p.4, para 1)
"In the coming weeks it is your responsibility to secure a new position" (p.5, para 1)
"Human Resources may continue to change your ATR school until you find a permanent position." (p.5, para 2)

it goes on to TEACH us how to construct a resume step by step (they even provide an example). After that lesson, they instruct us how to write a cover letter, dress for an interview, speak to a principal, do a follow-up, etc., along the same lines. The pi├Ęce de resistance is the Appendix: a full-page list of "Action Verbs" to help in our job search! To whom does the DOE think it is talking to in this booklet? Some of us have spent most of our careers teaching kids how to write well. Some of us have endured 30 credits above a Masters to make sure we are equipped to do that very job. Some of us, for heaven's sake, have second jobs as writers, editors, counselors, and tutors.

So when I say that this chancellor and this group of educrats has the most profound hatred of teachers, I'm not exaggerating. They virtually flaunt their disregard for the contract and hope no one's looking. They swamp us with instructional material to infantilize us, and they do it under the guise of being helpful.

It's clear they want us VOICELESS. It's clear they want the most senior of us OUT OF THE SYSTEM ENTIRELY.

I am told the union is working on this. Not fast enough though, because by the time they act, the job vacancies on the Open Market system will most likely be taken. Which brings me to that ATR thing mentioned in Rule 11.

We all know by now that Klein recently changed how teacher salaries are going to get paid. In a short time, the principals will have to budget for the higher salaries if they want to retain the most experienced (senior) and most heavily credited (MA plus 30) teachers. I'm afraid this is the death knell of the profession as we once knew it. Even though there's a year's grace on who foots the salary bill, administrators have been heard saying things like "You get two for the price of one" and "Hey, I don't want to interview anyone with over 15 years." Let's say that you, as an excessed teacher, never even get an interview in the new Open Market system because of your years-in or high salary. You may end up subbing for a long time, and you may be subbing in the most difficult schools or getting bounced from one school to another. (UFT bosses, stay alert: the nifty wording in Rule 11 implies possible placement in a second school, but I'm sure the DOE has every intention of keeping its options open to bounce you around to as many schools as it wants.) Few of us would choose to remain in the profession if we had to sub under those conditions for any length of time, but bingo! From the DOE's point of view so much the better, high salaries and high future pensions being such a worry for them. They'd much prefer it if all the senior teachers just quit.

And not just the higher paid teachers. There are so many other gosh-darn reasons for not taking in an excessed teacher: inadequate skills, no charisma, lukewarm recommendations, a history of union activism or whistleblowing, the way the person dresses, that...um...race thing. I knew a principal who wouldn't hire a teacher because she didn't have her nails done. All these people can be ATRs as well until they can't stand it anymore.

There is no check on any of this because the UFT doesn't have a proactive bone in its collective body and has not in recent contracts paid much attention to anything but salary. They're just watching it all play out, and one can't be but baffled at their indifference. Much of what the DOE has sent out to excessed teachers in the past month contradicts the very paragraphs on the subject that the UFT has posted on its own website (see "Know Your Rights"). The union was obviously not at the table when the DOE schemed up this Open Market thing. Hold on, maybe it was at the table. Some people think the union has been complicit for years.

Epilogue.
You can't turn a person into an activist. You have to recognize your own anger and convert it into a political voice -- against a fundamentally rotten education department installed and supported by a privileged, power-obsessed mayor, and against a marginalized and semi-comatose union.

12 comments:

  1. From UFT.org

    Excessing Rules = No-Layoff Provision
    Jun 5, 2006 3:19 PM

    At the May Delegate Assembly Randi mentioned that one of the things we gained in our new contract is that the excessing clause is a virtual no-layoff provision. Up until now we have downplayed this gain, waiting for the contractual language to be fully hammered out.


    In many respects this provision is far better than any we previously had for teachers. Many members at the DA seemed to be unaware of this fact, as it so important we thought we should make it very clear here. The new provision provides for the following:


    When members are told that they are in excess, they have a contractual right to use the Open Market Transfer Plan to seek another position.
    If they are unsuccessful, or if they choose not to use the Open Market Transfer Plan, then their region’s administrators can send them to interview for a vacancy in their license area elsewhere in their current district (previously, the employer could send a member in excess if there were no vacancy in their district anywhere there was a vacancy in the entire city.) If no such vacancy exists, or if after the interview the principal opts not to select them, the region’s administrators can broaden the field by sending excessed members to interview for a vacancy in their license area anywhere in the region. Note: Members cannot be sent to interview outside the region. If a vacancy doesn’t exist in the region, or the interview does not lead to a job offer, the member is still in excess.
    Should this occur the region’s administrators are obliged to use excessed members as ATRs (Absent Teacher Reserve) in their home school, if at all possible, or at another school in their current district. As an ATR a member is assigned to one school and cannot be sent out of his or her current district. A teacher who is excessed to another school may request an opportunity to return to the school from which he/she was excessed if within a year a vacancy in his/her license area should occur in that school this is commonly referred to as the “right of return.”
    The D.O.E. tried to eliminate all excessing rights in contract negotiation. They used the problem of bumping as a springboard to argue in fact-finding that an excessed member should have 18 months to find a vacancy, and if unsuccessful, to be laid off.

    The fact-finders rejected their position and instead, agreed with us to stop bumping and to maintain educators who are in excess in the D.O.E. employ.

    Now, a person can remain as an ATR indefinitely while still seeking another position, and because these positions are not limited no one can be laid-off unless there is a true citywide layoff situation or major budgetary problems that require the DOE to cut back severely on staff. In such emergencies, the DOE must follow Ed. Law section 2588, which states that part-timers and regular subs must be let go first and if all vacancies have been filled then layoffs must follow a strict seniority pattern starting with the most junior person in the city.


    The DOE will no longer let principals take an excessed person off the school’s budget until that person has a job. This stops the wholesale excessing of personnel. But while this is a positive for many of members it may serve to retard some of the job acceptances in the open market system.


    This new provision not only gives our members a no-layoff provision under ordinary circumstances but keeps them from being bumped or excessed all over the city.

    If you want to stay in your district or superintendency, YOU CAN!

    ReplyDelete
  2. " When members are told that they are in excess, they have a contractual right to use the Open Market Transfer Plan to seek another position."
    Precisely where does it say that in that in the contract?


    "... previously, the employer could send a member in excess if there were no vacancy in their district anywhere there was a vacancy in the entire city."
    A red herring. This usually did not happen. Excessed people were generally accommodated, even though the DOE was constantly breaking the rules and wrecking the pecking order in devious ways.


    "If they are unsuccessful ... "
    You missed a step: what if they didn't even get a single interview. Age and $$$$$ really talks, doesn't it. I hope you Legal Eagles are getting boning up on a whole lot of class action here.


    "Note: Members cannot be sent to interview outside the region. "
    Wakey, wakey: No more regions!! Klein does what he wants, and doesn't seem to bother much with keeping you in the loop. Hard to keep up with him, isn't it.


    "...or the interview does not lead to a job offer, the member is still in excess."
    You got that right. Indefinitely, til they quit.


    " ... or at another school in their current district."
    I agree that's what Rule 11 seems to say, but look at all that wiggle room!!! There's absolutely no doubt about it: "another" school does not confine itself to "one" "other" school. It could equally mean "any" "other" school.


    "... a person can remain as an ATR indefinitely while still seeking another position,"
    And who, precisely, is doing the seeking? That's my point: You guys (and gal) were all out to lunch when the DOE changed the rules and placed the responsibility of finding a new job on the teacher. And I don't see any forethought in your June 6th posting above, nor any surprise, outrage or damage control since. The difference between You and Us is that you keep your jobs and we just lost our entire career.


    " In such emergencies ... Ed. Law section 2588, which states that part-timers and regular subs must be let go first ..."
    I may as well ask at this point, are ATR's considered senior teachers or regular subs? (Who'd ever think I'd be asking THAT question?)


    "This stops the wholesale excessing of personnel."
    I'm not aware that the "wholesale" excessing of personnel has stopped. Huge chunks of staff in some Bronx high schools have been put out to pasture. It's unprecedented in recent times.


    " ... new provision not only gives our members a no-layoff provision . . . but keeps them from being bumped or excessed all over the city."'
    We've had a no-lay off provision for at least a couple of decades, and I'm pretty sure at least in the last contract or two (don't have them at hand) bumping came with geographical restrictions unless a worst-case scenario came to pass. You only secured improvement for the LESS and LEAST senior teachers, who now sit tightly in their jobs, yessing the principal, superintendent, and chancellor to death while waiting for their tenure while their senior colleagues take the hits. Gee, what a great job you did for us.


    "If you want to stay in your district or superin-tendency, YOU CAN!"
    Gimme a break.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Addendum to the comment just above:

    Please correct me if I'm wrong on any of this.

    And sorry I'm Anonymous. Don't have a job yet. Didn't even get an interview out of the 11 jobs I applied for. You understand how it is.

    ReplyDelete
  4. And why exactly hasn't the DOE put a hiring freeze in place until every single ATR is placed in a permanent position?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Because they don't want them in the system! Their hiring priorities amount to two things: cheap and cowed. What USE is anything else to them in their corporate model.

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  6. We, (the ATR's), are like sheep being led to the slaughter. The Open Market Hiring System may have gotten a few people a few jobs, but not anyone that I know, (and I know many in this position). Not every job is posted, (I've interviewed for hidden positions; emails are not opened or are immediately deleted, (you can set your Outlook to show you the status of your emails); fellows and other brand-new teachers are allowed into hiring fairs hours before we are, and...I can go on and on. The interviews that the UFT promised to help us with last year amounted to one for me, none for most others from my former school. (BTW, did you all know that if a principal from your district or region is given your name and is willing to hire you we cannot refuse the position or we can be fired? We have no choice, no voice). I've spent a year as an ATR, many more will join our ranks this year as more and more schools are reorganized, restructured or whatever, the UFT should give us our own chapter!!!

    17 more years mentioned a hiring freeze. I thought of this often when Klein was vowing to hire 1300 new teachers to lower class size - how many ATR's are there? It's just so much BS, expected from the DOE, despicable from Unity.

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  7. Doesn't Leo understand that the vast majority of us came to this profession to teach, connect with kids, develop deep relationships, and make a difference in their lives. It is not about a job - many of us could have gotten jobs in the outside world at far higher salaries - maybe even higher than his -. We chose to TEACH - not work as ATR's where none of that is realized. Under the old contract, that was our guarantee - regardless of how high or low our salary was, regardless of whether or not a particular principal saw us activists or not. He just doesn't get it.

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  8. The fact that we have to keep reminding them of all this tells you how shamefully derelict they've been.

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  9. Leo DOES understand. But he is the spinmeister -- there to justify anything Unity does even when they flip flop. Open Market is wonderful. Bad stuff is an urban myth. You are lucky to be an ATR.

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  10. Seriously, does ICE even serve a real purpose other than to drive a wedge within our union? Has ICE ever accomplished anything worthy of mention? And no, a sham presidential candidate in the last election, shoddy quality YouTube films, and heckling during the Delegate Assembly doesn't count.

    -Son Of Unity, the next generation
    I'll be back!

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  11. Forgive me, but I'm just catching up on the ATR problem. My mind has been focused on how to best teach my students this or that concept. I let the Union take care of contract issues. Isn't that what I pay my dues for? Now my own job is threatened. All of a sudden, I've lifted my eyes out of my plan/grade book, and am horrified to see what is happening to nyc teachers who have dedicated years, and in some cases, decades of their lives to teaching our most disadvantaged youngsters. In my case, my school's "report card" was good, so they can't close the school convert all the tenured teachers into day by day subs. But what they have done is give me a U-rating for the first time in 20 years. Two more and I'm out. This is another way of getting rid of older, higher paid, and opinionated teachers like me. Leo: Layoffs are bad. Discrimination is worse.

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