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Union to detail ATR plan at meetings for position-less teachers

One month into the school year, the United Federation of Teachers is hosting a series of meetings for the teachers without permanent assignments in city schools who comprise the controversial Absent Teacher Reserve.

Set for each borough over the next week, the meetings are meant to explain the deal the teachers union struck with the city this summer over the ATR pool to avoid teacher layoffs, according to Peter Kadushin, a UFT spokesman.

Representatives from the union will also field feedback from teachers about the deal, which requires teachers in the ATR pool to be reassigned to different schools multiple times over the course of the year. In previous years, teachers whose positions had been eliminated were typically assigned to one school for the entire year.

The first meeting was scheduled for today at the union’s Bronx office — with meetings at UFT offices in other boroughs to follow. In the past, the union has held meetings for teachers in the ATR pool at its central office at the beginning of the school year, Kadushin said.

Teachers in the ATR pool have been working in temporary jobs inside schools that were assigned by the DOE for the month of September. Next week, the teachers will begin rotating to substitute teaching positions throughout the school system on a weekly basis — assignments they expect to receive from the DOE later this week.

ATR teachers say they view the UFT meetings as an opportunity to get more information about an assignment process that has left many feeling frustrated and disenfranchised and suggest solutions to a concern that many share: that schools are unlikely to hire from the ATR pool.

One Bronx-based, high school technology teacher said he would like to ask the city to help him pay for certification in a different area, such as social studies or math, where more positions are available.

“There need to be more retraining opportunities for these teachers,” he said. Though he has searched for permanent positions at multiple teacher job fairs this summer, the teacher said he feels “helpless,” waiting to find out where he will be teaching next week.

“We don’t have a handle on the situation, we control nothing,” he said. “I just sit back and watch the mess.”

An audit released by the city comptroller’s office earlier this month criticized the DOE for not doing enough to help teachers in the ATR pool find new jobs. The report also suggested that the city is wasting money when it allows schools to hire new teachers, rather than fill open positions from the ATR pool.