Wednesday, September 14, 2011

GEMers Join ATRs at Washington Heights Job Fair to Enthusiastic Response as DOE Insanity Escalates

James Eterno has a new post at the ICE blog indicating just how insane the ATR problem is becoming:


Tuesday was the day for the latest ATR job fair where experienced teachers had to line up for what we have been told were very few positions. Next week there will be another one of these pseudo hiring halls.

Meanwhile back in Jamaica High School, there is nobody covering the library as the librarian was excessed and has been assigned as an ATR to a school in Long Island City. Therefore, the library is closed most of the day; it is only open because there are no classrooms available so some teachers, including myself, are teaching there. In addition, 35 classes at Jamaica are oversize as our phasing out school is squeezed into a smaller part of the building.
I was also informed by another friend who was excessed from Jamaica that she has nothing to do at her new school. 35 oversize classes at Jamaica with no librarian and teachers are sitting around as ATRs in other schools doing nothing. How can the DOE, the union, the press and the public allow this to happen?
Read it all here:

Yesterday there was a mandatory job fair for Manhattan and Bronx ATRs (posted at NYCATR blog). The GEM ATR committee has 3 members present, one an ATR herself. They distributed a leaflet to ATRs (see a modified version at the end of this post) and the response was incredibly positive. GEM began receiving responses from ATRs through the evening.

The GEM ATR teacher sent this:
I was totally not expecting the enthusiasm with which I was greeted. People were putting their hands out to me to take the flyer. Many people responded to my statement of trying to organize atr's, because the uft is not, with, good, thank god, great, oh thank you so much....
Following is an account by GEM's Angel Gonzalez, where he reports an astounding number - that over 50% were Black and Latino. (Sign the diversity petition letter to Mulgrew - link on side panel.)

Sept. 13, 2011
Washington Heights Armory, 169th Street Manhattan

Over 300 ATRs (excessed teachers) lined up for another DOE sponsored job fair where most will not find permanent jobs. It was another one of those summer mandatory futile job searches where ATRs are obligated to attend and where only a few will land a job. Most at today's job fair were clearly senior veteran higher-paid excessed teachers and over 50% were Black and Latino.

Principals generally will hire the younger inexperienced teachers who are paid less and tend not to know their labor rights -- thus more compliant to the whims of administrators. Many of those young teachers are graduates of the Teach For America pool where they are inculcated with anti-union and anti-veteran teacher propaganda. Principals, facing mounting budget deficits and cuts, would be foolish to hire seasoned teachers who earn salaries between $80 - 100K yearly when the bargain is to hire two at those prices! The deck has been unfairly stacked against older higher paid ATRs.

At his job fair today, some expressed the hope that maybe the city will offer them an early retirement buyout. Others shared anger at the UFT leadership for abandoning them in the 2005 contract which
bargained away their right to seniority rights transfer. Now starting in October, those ATRs cannot find a steady classroom job will become substitutes who will be assigned weekly to different schools in their districts to cover for absent teachers. This agreement by the UFT with Mayor Bloomberg to turn ATRs into traveling subs can force many to quit due to the untenable and unpredictable situation.

Bloomberg persists in seeking to eliminate tenure and the just "Last In First Out-LIFO" state protections. Should layoffs occur, without these protections, ATRs will be surely the first targeted for firings. Be on the look-out also for Bloomberg's allies in our schools --- a nefarious group called
E4E (Educators for Excellence) is aggressively organizing to win over the hearts and minds of our newer teachers in this deceptive anti-tenure and anti-experienced teacher campaign that unjustly and cruelly blame them, instead of government, for the problems in our public school.

In Chicago and Washington DC excessed teachers are given from six to nine months to find placements or else are fired. We can't let this happen here too. We can't allow our brothers and sisters to be dumped like collateral damage in this charter-privatization assault of our schools. Excessed teachers should be guaranteed a job elsewhere as was the case prior to 2005. As schools continue to be closed to replaced with charters, hundreds more of ATRs will be created. It is estimated that it costs today the city $100M yearly!

As ATRs and as UFT members we will need to organize ourselves and mount the necessary political pressure to defend tenure and to restore seniority transfer rights. Clearly no UFT officials or UFT organizers were present on the lines today to promote, defend and organize in the just interests of ATRs.

A few blogs in the defense of ATR nightmare stories have emerged. Check out and post your stories and perspectives. Suggest pro-active fight-back strategies against this humiliating situation that should never have been allowed to happen.

GEM ATR Committee organizers, including Bob Godfried and Angel Gonzalez, were at today's job fair distributing leaflets and sharing our views.

ATRs R Us! Join the fight-back.
Be on the look-out for our upcoming meetings.

Angel Gonzalez
Contact GEM-ATR committee at:

A newer generation Chapter Leader asked Angel a question:
One thing...I was wondering if you could write about seniority rights transfers.  I don't know exactly what that is, but I know that it is an important piece of the ATR puzzle.
Angel responded:
Good question on important right that teachers had in UFT contracts prior to 2005 contract (when was voted up because carrot of $100K was dangled and now DOE and UFT collaborate to ensure most will not get that $$$$). Seniority rights transfer = if you were excessed you would bump someone else in that license at your school or someone else at another school in your district schools.  You would be guaranteed a job elsewhere and seniority in the system played a role.  The principal could not reject you. Obviously, as with all contractual clauses there are problems.  But those would need to be worked out. Don't know all the legaleeze and exact contractual guidelines of the past --- folks in ICE/uft are (esp. James Eterno) who is working with our ATR comm.

Firefighters and police have this seniority rights if their stations are closed.   It is only fair and common sense for a community to have the best experience workers to provide services.

Being an ATR is a scary and humiliating experience.  Heard that one teacher in Canarsie threw herself down stairs (seeking to collect compensation) since she could not fathom herself as wandering atr going as sub from school to school.

Here is a version of the leaflet handed out at the job fair. I'm going to make some copies and hand it out at the citywide chapter leader meeting this afternoon.
Attention ATR’s – What’s REALLY going on here?
Help fight off the destructive actions of the DOE done in the name of "school reform", as well as the poor decisions of the UFT leadership resulting in the loss of job protections and the unwarranted closure of over 100 of high schools (& middle schools) over the objections of parents, students, alumni, teachers, community, etc. The Bronx & Manhattan has been particularly hard hit - we've lost every community high school with the exception for De Witt Clinton, which survives only due to their powerful alumni association. Many of these high schools were around for 75-100 years educating generations of New Yorkers.
Bloomberg developed a "final solution" to purge the system of senior teachers: close large community middle and high schools, eliminate seniority transfer, require principals to consider salary in making staffing decisions. These actions created a large pool of ATR's (unassigned teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve). A critical component of this strategy is the repeal LIFO ("Last In-First Out" state civil service seniority protections) which would result in the firing of ATR's who are unable to secure regular teaching positions on the open market. Despite Bloomberg's vigorous efforts, the state legislature did not abolish LIFO, thus creating the unusually large pool of unassigned ATR's. With the failure of this strategy, the DOE is trying figure out what to do with all these, mostly senior ATR's. The current strategy appears to harass them by using the unassigned ATR's to cover absences, in lieu of the day-to-day subs. In October they will be moved around each week to different schools. Expect a new assault on LIFO this year.

If your only sources of information are the D.O.E dispatches from Tweed, the UFT newspaper or the compliant mass media, you are not getting the whole picture. Please check out blogger NYCATR" - with lots of useful information for ATRs: Also, look into list of other teacher activist blogs on the right sidebar for more insights. An excellent blog for ALL teachers to get an overview of what's really happening is, "Education Notes Online."

The Grassroots Education Movement, a group of educator activists, has formed a committee for those working as ATR’s. Our goals include providing information to people in this position and organizing this very vulnerable group. We expect to hold a meeting soon. Contact: The Grassroots Education Movement -


Check out Norms Notes for a variety of articles of interest: And make sure to check out the side panel on right for news bits.

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