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Schools are hiring, but veteran teachers say job outlook is grim

With just weeks to find teaching positions before the start of the school year, recent college graduates rubbed shoulders with veteran teachers at a Department of Education job fair yesterday.

New teachers who attended the fair said they are optimistic about their chances of finding a school to hire them, now that the city has relaxed its two-year-old hiring restrictions.

“It’s not as bad as I thought it would be — a lot of my friends have already received offers,” said Arbiana Asani, who is looking for an English teaching position after graduating from Hunter College in June.

But pessimism was the prevailing mood at the fair among experienced teachers whose previous positions were recently eliminated. Those teachers said few jobs were advertised in their license areas and that some principals seemed to balk at the expense that would accompany their years of experience.

Caroline Schulz said she left the job fair with the sense that no schools would be hiring an art teacher so late in the summer. She has twice been excessed from art teaching jobs at a time when more principals are unable to fund full-time arts teachers. This will be her second time entering the Absent Teacher Reserve, the pool for teachers whose positions have been eliminated.

“The reasons were definitely the budget cuts,” said Schulz, who has been teaching for close to two decades. “In my experience, it’s always the arts that are hit first.”

Schools received their budgets from the DOE later this year than usual, forcing principals to cut positions over the summer. The department has not yet released information on how many teacher positions were cut.

Mary Smith, a science teacher, said she has scrambled to apply for jobs since she was excessed from a Brooklyn high school in July because she was the least senior teacher on staff. She also attended a job fair in Brooklyn at the beginning of the month. This week’s fair featured schools in the Bronx and Manhattan.

Smith said she got a grim sense of her job prospects from meeting with principals and teachers at both fairs. Some of them, she said, didn’t seem committed to interviewing all of the job candidates available.

“They talked, they were pleasant, but some of them packed up their tables and left by 4 o’clock,” Smith said. She said the job hunt has taken time away from her teaching duties.

“By now, August 16, I should be starting to put my lesson plans together, reviewing the Regents so I know my plan for next year. But I’m in limbo,” Smith said.

A new rule requires schools to interview teachers in the ATR pool but does not require that they hire from the pool.

One social sciences teacher who asked not to be named said she worried principals viewed her 30 years of teaching experience as a reason not to hire her. “The principals look at our resumes, and when they see the date or how many years we’ve been teaching, they sum up that we cost too much. One looked at my resume and just said, ‘Oh, it looks like you’ve been teaching for a while.’” Meanwhile, she added, “They’re hiring brand new teachers who have never taught, they just got out of college.”

The teacher, who brought a book bag stuffed with portfolios of past students’ work to the job fair to show interviewers, said she was dismayed to find teachers and guidance counselors standing in for principals. “They’re sending a message that it’s not that important to fill whatever position, because the teacher doesn’t have the authority to hire anyone anyway.”

This will be her first year in the ATR pool. She lost her job after her school, M.S. 321 in Manhattan, closed due to poor performance.

Though her salary will not change this year even if she can only find work as a substitute, she said the DOE is not using her to her full potential. “Right now I would be giving my free time to setting up my library in my classroom, and writing introductory letters to parents and students, welcoming them to the school,” she said.

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