Approximately three weeks ago teachers at Flushing High School began interviewing for their current positions at the turnaround school that will replace ours on July 1: Rupert B. Thomas Academy at Flushing Campus. In addition to preparing students for Regents exams and calculating final grades, my colleagues were working nonstop to gather portfolio materials and letters of recommendations for the reapplication process.
Some had interviews during their lunch or prep periods while others still have yet to interview. Conversations around this time of the year generally include happy sentiments about completing another year, but this time it was, “Did you go yet? What did they ask? How did you do?” Colleagues who have successfully held their positions for anywhere from five to 30 years were dressed in their best business attire, pacing nervously in front of the conference room where the interviews were taking place.
The interview committee has consisted of the new principal for the new school, two representatives for the UFT, two representatives of the city Department of Education, one parent, and a current assistant principal.
The steps leading up to our current situation thus far have left the entire staff (and student body) extremely jaded. We all believe that there is no logic to the entire process and that the DOE had already predetermined who they will be hiring back, and most of us believed that salary would be a big factor. (For each teacher, the city charges schools the average salary of all of the school’s teachers, so principals have a financial incentive to hire less experienced teachers when possible.)
Even with the cloud of uncertainty, there remained a little hope for those who reapplied — especially for teachers with 3-5 years of experience. They had had time to establish themselves as professionals and continue to contribute countless hours to their students outside of the normal school day, but still earn a relatively low salary.
Last Thursday, all of their hope was taken away. Emails were distributed during the middle of the day to those who were not going to be asked back.
There are several aspects of this process that are still incomprehensible to me:
- Many of the teachers who were not accepted were those who have the utmost respect from their students and colleagues. These are people who conduct before- and after-school programs, coach sports teams, and lead honor societies. Age did not seem to play a role as both rookie and veterans received the devastating news.
- Why would the school be so classless as to notify these teachers in the middle of the day on a Thursday? This was unprofessional and highly insensitive — after all they had been through, the teachers deserved the respect to be notified in private or during a time where they could be alone. Teachers were crying out of hysteria, as were many of their colleagues who were equally devastated to hear the fate of their friends.
- How could some people be not asked back before all of the interviews are complete?
On Friday around noon, a handful of re-applicants received notification that they had been accepted back. I empathize with these colleagues because the events of the previous day had removed any joy they felt about keeping a job that they wanted. They were also upset because they realized that the people they so enjoyed working with would no longer be there next year — it will have no resemblance to our current school.
I will never forgive the mayor for the devastation that he has caused at Flushing High School, as well as at all of the other schools under turnaround status. He has ruined our community and caused unthinkable hurt and pain to a wonderful group of people and professionals. Even worse, it is the students that will suffer most.
What will students think when they return in September and their favorite teachers are gone?
About our First Person series:
First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.