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1,800 open jobs as hiring freeze wears on and Sept. 9 nears

The outlook for city teachers without positions hasn’t brightened much in the last month, even with the external hiring freeze meant to help them land jobs.

Just about 300 of the teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve found new jobs in the last month. That leaves about 2,000 ATRs on the Department of Education’s payroll with just weeks before school starts. And their chances of finding a spot might be tough: Though the system has 1,800 openings, some principals are signaling they are hoping to fill their spots with outside teachers, rather than hire jobless teachers from within the department.

At a hiring fair in Queens on Tuesday night, principals snapped up eligible teachers in minutes, reported a teacher named Jenn in a comment at GothamSchools.

But other principals appear to be hanging onto the hope that they’ll soon be able to have their pick of aspiring teachers, despite Schools Chancellor Joel Klein’s warning that the freeze would not be lifted soon. We heard from a new teacher who was invited on a staff retreat by a principal who isn’t allowed to hire her. And at least one School Support Organization sent an e-mail to its principals outlining the steps they would need to take to hire new teachers in the event that the city decided to allow new hires on a case-by-case basis.

The city currently has no plans to allow principals to lobby for case-by-case exemptions from the freeze, according to Ann Forte, a Department of Education spokeswoman. Instead, she said, the department expects to see accelerated hiring from within its teaching ranks in the next few weeks. “It’s not unusual for principals to do a lot of hiring in the last weeks of August,” she said.

About 350 teachers whose jobs had been eliminated found positions since the end of July, when there were more than 2,300 teachers and about 2,400 vacant positions, Forte said. The hiring freeze is meant not to eliminate the ATR pool but to prevent it from growing above its size last year, when there were about 1,100 teachers in the pool.

The freeze was relaxed in one new area this week: Schools with gifted programs can now appeal to hire teachers from outside the system, according to a note that appeared this week on the Principals’ Portal, the department’s Web site for school leaders. Gifted education is not a separate license area, but teachers must have special certification to teach in a gifted program, according to Forte. Previous changes have allowed principals to look outside the system for special education and most science teachers.

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