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DOE offers options, but not jobs, to Teaching Fellows facing firing

A late-afternoon e-mail sent by the Department of Education yesterday means that new teachers facing termination on Dec. 5 can enter the Thanksgiving weekend with renewed hopes for a career in the city’s classrooms.

Called Teaching Fellows, the teachers are brought into the system with no teaching experience but gain credentials through evening university classes. About 100 90* fellows who had not been placed in classroom jobs are slated to be removed from the city if they still do not have a job by Dec. 5, a deadline that had some lobbying for more security. Yesterday, they got a little bit, in the form of an e-mail from the head of the program, who said that they can be added back to the payroll if they find positions by Feb. 3 of 2009.

Those who don’t find a job by then can join next fall’s Teaching Fellows class, according to the e-mail, and all of the Teaching Fellows who finish out their required coursework this semester can work as substitute teachers for the rest of the school year.

The new deal could reflect school officials’ concern that they might need teachers later this school year. Bringing in last-minute, middle-of-the-year replacement teachers is a common practice here; last school year, the department hired more than 700 teachers between November and January, 200 of whom were Teaching Fellows, Ann Forte, a department spokeswoman said. But this year the mid-year Teaching Fellows program was canceled due to budget constraints. The holdover pool of fellows hired in the summer could help schools plug whatever vacancies come up.

Yet some fellows worry they will still suffer in the job market, thanks to new sweeteners the department is giving to lure principals into hiring more experienced teachers in a group known as the Absent Teacher Reserve. The sweeteners make those experienced teachers cost the same price as Teaching Fellows and even offer extra cash as an additional incentive. They were announced last week as part of a deal with the teachers union.

A Teaching Fellow who has not been hired told me last week that the deal places newly hired teachers at an “extreme competitive disadvantage.”

“I would doubt any of us will be hired under this system,” he said.

There could still be hope: “There’s work going on behind the scenes on their behalf,” UFT spokesman Brian Gibbons just told me about the Teaching Fellows without positions.

Here’s the full e-mail to Teaching Fellows:

Our records indicate that you are currently teaching as a member of the Teacher Reserve. I am writing with an important update regarding opportunities and options available to Teaching Fellows who will not have secured a full-time position outside the Teacher Reserve by the December 5, 2008 deadline. We recognize and value your commitment to the Fellows program and to the children of the New York City public schools. We also understand that you joined the Fellows with the full intention to find and be selected for a regularly appointed position at a school. It remains our hope that you will be able to locate such a position outside of the Teacher Reserve by December 5. While this deadline remains in place, we are prepared to offer some options to you to help in your continuing effort to become a full-time, regular NYC teacher. Those opportunities and options are outlined below. These opportunities apply to all Teaching Fellows terminated on December 5, 2008: Ø You will be issued a new credential that enables you to work as an occasional, per-diem substitute (day-to-day substitute) during this school year. This credential is valid for day-to-day part-time substitute service only. Ø You may continue in coursework at your university to complete the fall 2008 term. We also are able to offer all Teaching Fellows terminated on December 5, 2008 the following reinstatement options: Ø OPTION # 1: If you secure a regular, full-time teaching position that begins by February 3, 2009, you can be reinstated into the Fellows program and re-commence your subsidized coursework for the spring 2009 term; or Ø OPTION # 2: If you do not secure a regular, full time teaching position by February 3, 2009, you can reinstate into the Fellowship in the fall of 2009 with Cohort 18, subject to the same terms and conditions of employment/Fellowship for that cohort. Under this scenario, you would not repeat pre-service training, but would resume coursework in the fall of 2009. Any Fellow subject to the December 5th deadline will receive more detailed information on the reinstatement process soon thereafter. If you are interested in pursuing a reinstatement option, the Teaching Fellows office will support you in a job search either for positions that may be available by February 3 or for the fall of 2009. While we recognize that the upcoming deadline is creating stress and uncertainty, we remain hopeful that you will be able to find a position by the end of next week. Even if that is not possible, given your contributions to date and your continuing desire to obtain a regular teaching position, please know that we will hold a place for you to reinstate, if interested, in the next group of Fellows (and potentially sooner if you are selected for a position by February 3). If you have any questions or concerns about these reinstatement options or your job search status, please do not hesitate to contact our office at fellows@schools.nyc.gov or 718.935.4101. Once again, thank you for your continuing commitment and efforts on behalf of the New York City public school children. Sincerely, Vicki Bernstein Executive Director Teacher Recruitment & Quality

*This is the latest estimate of the number of unplaced Teaching Fellows, courtesy of Ann Forte, DOE spokeswoman.