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Teachers in ATR pool get first temporary assignment of many

The Department of Education gave out temporary assignments yesterday to nearly 2,000 teachers who are on the city payroll but who do not have permanent jobs in schools.

That didn’t stop dozens of teachers from lining up outside the Brooklyn Museum yesterday afternoon for one of the last hiring fairs before school starts next week. Members of the Absent Teacher Reserve, the pool of teachers whose positions have been cut, mostly due to budget cuts or school closures, received special invitations to the job fair from the DOE, encouraging them to be “proactive” in their job search.

If those teachers are not offered jobs this week, they will be asked to rotate between different schools on a weekly basis as substitute teachers, according to an arrangement made by the teachers union and the DOE earlier this summer to avoid teacher layoffs. In previous years, ATRs were typically assigned to one school for the entire year to cover for absent teachers.

There were 1,940 teachers in the ATR pool as of Aug. 19. Typically, the pool shrinks in the first weeks of the school year as principals hasten to fill open positions.

Those who logged into the job portal for excessed teachers yesterday morning found information on what schools to report to in September.

English teacher Jerome Madramootoo, who was excessed after the city began phasing out Jamaica High School in June, said he was assigned to work at Newtown High School in Queens next month, but given no specific information about what he would be doing there.

Madramootoo said he hoped it would be teaching English, his license area. But he said he wondered what impact he could make on a temporary basis. He came to the job fair armed with a copy of the high school year book he helped produce at Jamaica High School in 2010. He said he wouldn’t be able to lead long-term projects like year books as a substitute teacher.

“The only benefit is that you still have your salary,” he said. “But who would you learn more from, a teacher you had for the full year, or a teacher you had for a half year, or a week? I can’t finish a novel with you, I can’t get into poetry with you in just a week.”

He decried the lack of stability in the new ATR system, and said it hurts students by denying them regular access to qualified teachers.

“You can’t bond with students if there’s no stability. This agreement is not about the students at all.”

Other teachers at the job fair said they were willing to take their chances on the weekly substitute teaching assignments, even though they acknowledged that their experience would be wasted.

“I feel like I’m robbing the kids,” said one Brooklyn elementary school teacher whose position, which she held for five years, fell victim to last-minute budget cuts.

She said this job fair was her first, and she deliberately did not make much of an effort to find a new position.

“I got an assignment for September at a middle school, but I teach elementary school,” she said. “And [a colleague] told me that at the beginning of the year, you don’t really do anything because there aren’t very many teachers absent anyway. If the DOE doesn’t take this seriously, why should I?”


Correction: A previous version of this article stated that the job fair was intended for excessed teachers only. According to DOE officials, other people  were also invited to attend.