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Road to “turnaround” rehiring has been bumpy, teachers say

The hiring process has hit snags at several “turnaround” schools where teachers have been told to reapply for their jobs this year.

Staff from many of the 24 schools that the city will close and reopen this year under a reform model called turnaround are complaining they are facing confusion and misinformation over who qualifies to be rehired and what will happen to teachers who are not rehired. At a handful of the schools, interviews were delayed by days because of last-minute administrative changes and unexpected time pressures. And some of the school-based hiring committees are working long hours but still falling behind.

Department of Education officials say the rehiring process is underway at all schools and is moving smoothly considering the sheer number of interviews that must be conducted. Any teacher from the schools who applies to stay on is guaranteed an interview, and about 2,600 of them have. They represent 85 percent of the 2,995 teachers currently working in the schools.

“All of the committees are up and running,” said Marc Sternberg, the deputy chancellor overseeing the turnaround initiative. “Some are ahead of others, and some are getting momentum now. Offers are starting to be made.”

But teachers at the schools say the interviews and offers are coming only after logistical hangups that complicated an already stressful process in the waning weeks of the school year.

At John Dewey High School, the first day of scheduled interviews was cancelled after not all members of the hiring committee showed up. Later, the school extended interviews well into Friday evening to make up for lost time.

“The person who was scheduled for 1 p.m. [Thursday] is still waiting for her 6 p.m. interview,” said one teacher last week. “At 4:30 p.m. they held the 11 a.m. interview. And they scheduled people for Friday at 6 and 7 p.m. It is really unbelievable.”

At Richmond Hill High School, teachers were gearing up for interviews when they learned the process would be postponed because the principal the city had installed earlier this year was being replaced. Michael Weinstein, formerly an assistant principal at Leon M. Goldstein High School of Science, is no longer slated to oversee Richmond Hill’s replacement school. Instead, Wayne Anderson, most recently a math teacher at Pathways College Preparatory School, will handle that job.T

Teachers at Richmond Hill and other turnaround schools are now weighing outside job offers with the knowledge that they may not know whether they can stay at their current schools for several more weeks.

“Many of our teachers have applied to other schools, and I’ve heard some of them already have positions in other schools,” said one Richmond Hill staff member last week. “People are waiting, and basically what they were told is that if they go on an interview at another school and they’re called, then they have to make the best decision for them, professionally. And obviously the interviews have not started here. We were told today is that they hope to start them next week.”

Sternberg said some hiccups should be expected considering the magnitude of the project in front of the turnaround schools’ hiring committees.

“This will take time, and this is not a principal making a decision — it’s a committee making a decision,” he said. “Our concern here is that we do it right and that we get the best faculty that we possibly can. It will require patience by everyone. It may take longer than they think.”

The process has moved more quickly at other schools undergoing turnaround. The hiring committee at Automotive High School in Brooklyn started meeting with applicants from outside the school this week after interviewing more than 50 staff members from within the school in past weeks and informing each of them of the committee’s hiring decision.

One Automotive teacher who was invited to return to the school estimated that about 15 teachers opted not to reapply for their jobs.

“A lot of teachers who didn’t interview have expressed that they found it degrading to interview for a job they already have, that it’s baiscally going to be the same old story,” the teacher said. “But basically everybody who applied knows whether they will have jobs at the school or not.”

Linda Rosenbury, the principal of M.S. 22 in the Bronx, said her hiring committee is also barreling through interviews, scheduling them at 20-minute intervals three days a week for 10 hours a day. She received more than a thousand applications for the 50 available spots; 4o of her current teachers applied.

“It’s been kind of sad, but I’ve had to miss the field trips, the eighth-grade trip, and other activities” that take place at the end of the year, Rosenbury said. “It’s intense interviewing but I know it’s worth it. … Teachers are coming to the interviews and saying, ‘I’m recommitting to this school.'”