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Union tells turnaround teachers how to return to their positions

In the days that followed an arbitrator’s decision to restore teachers’ jobs at so-called turnaround schools, teachers and administrators who were once told not to return received almost no guidance from the city on how to reclaim their positions.

The city is appealing the arbitrator’s decision in court on July 24, arguing that they will not be able to carry out rigorous reform plans for the 24 schools without first replacing many of their teachers. But until then, the staffs of those schools who would have been replaced may reclaim their positions. Yesterday evening, turnaround teachers received the first word on how to do that, in the form of an email from teachers union President Michael Mulgrew.

In June, the city asked every teacher at each of the turnaround schools to reapply for their jobs and sit for interviews with a hiring committee under a contractual process called 18-D. State education officials said the city would have to use 18-D if it hoped to hit a federal quota for replacing the teachers (50 percent) and be eligible for millions of dollars in federal School Improvement Grants. The teachers union sued the city to have these plans reversed, and won.

Since then, the city has seemingly balked at complying with the arbitrator’s ruling. In the days that followed it, teachers said they were confused by the outcome, and administrators who led the turnaround schools until June 30 said they were still being asked to report to new assignments.

Despite these complaints, yesterday city officials repeated their promise to comply with the ruling—for now.

“At the moment, we have to assume they will come back, but if we were to win—which we fully expect and certainly for the benefit of our students pray that we do—then we have to make some adjustments ,which will be painful and difficult,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said during a press conference about the state test results. “With god as my witness, I will not walk away from those kids.”

(UPDATE: City officials emailed letters to teachers this afternoon. A copy of one letter provided to GothamSchools by a teacher is below.)

In his email, Mulgrew tells teachers they have “stood strong” for their schools, and encourages them to continue to do so as they await the appeal decision.

“The DOE has attempted to sow confusion about the future of these schools, but the options are all yours: to remain in your school or to transfer. It’s up to you,” Mulgrew wrote.

Teachers who were not asked to return to their schools should receive one of two letters from the city this week, the email said.

One letter, for teachers who applied to transfer to another school, will direct those teachers to an online survey, where they can tell officials of their plans to either continue their transfer or to return to their original school. The transfer is binding, Mulgrew wrote, and the city will consider an incomplete survey a confirmation that the teacher plans to transfer.

A second letter should go to teachers who were not asked to return to their school, but did not apply for another job, instructing them that “you do not have to do anything,” to reclaim their jobs.

A summer school teacher at Herbert H. Lehman High School, one of the turnaround schools, said teachers and administrators are still confused over their roles in the school, and unsure what hiring decisions, if any, must be made before fall. Candidates for a “lead teacher” position in English with a $10,000 salary bonus gave demo lessons today, the teacher said.

“I was under the impression that since we were no longer a turnaround school, those positions would not exist,” the teacher said. “The administration is almost acting like the arbitration decision never happened.”

The teacher also said assistant principals and other administrators have begun interview teachers from outside the school for positions in the fall.

“It makes sense that they need new teachers since many are transferring, but if we all have the right to return, they have no official idea if there are any openings yet.”

The full email:

Dear colleagues,

As you are aware, arbitrator Scott Buchheit on June 29 decided, in our favor, that the Department of Education violated our contract when it decided to excess all of the staff at the 24 PLA schools and make them reapply for their positions. Then, on July 10, we succeeded in stopping the DOE from securing a Temporary Restraining Order to prevent the implementation of his decision.

The Department of Education continues to try to get the court to overturn the arbitrator’s decision. We are due back in court on July 24. However, the DOE is in the meantime required to implement the remedy set forth in the decision. We have met with the DOE to discuss their plans and to make sure that the process for adequately staffing these schools in the fall complies with the arbitrator’s order.

All UFT members in the 24 PLA schools will soon receive one of two letters from the DOE. Those of you who have applied to transfer to another school will receive one letter; those who have not will receive a different letter.

Letter #1: If you have a pending transfer to another school, you should inform the DOE whether you still intend to transfer by completing the online survey linked to in the letter you will receive. Keep in mind that a decision to transfer is binding and that if you fail to complete the survey, your transfer will be confirmed.

Letter #2: If you do NOT have a pending transfer to another school, but you are thinking about resigning, retiring, or going on a leave, you can complete the DOE survey linked to in the letter you will receive. Completion of the survey is not binding and is for informational purposes only. If you are returning to the school to which you were assigned in school year 2011-2012 (or the school that replaces it), you do not have to do anything. You may still transfer through the Open Market regardless of whether or how you complete the survey.

From day one, we said that the DOE was wrong and that we were going to fight them on their misinterpretation of articles 17 and 18D of our contract. The DOE has attempted to sow confusion about the future of these schools, but the options are all yours: to remain in your school or to transfer. It’s up to you.

Despite all of the obstacles the Department of Education has thrown in your way this past year, you have stood strong for your students, your schools and your profession. Our focus now turns to doing everything we can to make sure that your schools have a good opening in the fall.

Sincerely,

Michael Mulgrew

The city’s email:

Dear Colleague,
As you are likely aware, pursuant to a stipulation between the United Federation of Teachers and the NYC Department of Education and a subsequent arbitrator’s decision covering the 24 PLA schools, you have a right to be assigned to your School Year 2011-12 school (or the school that has been intended to replace it) for the 2012-13 school year.*
According to our records, you have a pending transfer to a different school for next school year. It is essential that you confirm as quickly as possible whether you still wish to transfer or remain at your SY2011-12 school (or the school that has been intended to replace it) for the 2012-13 school year. To communicate your decision, use this link to an on-line survey:

[Link removed]

Please be advised, a decision to transfer is binding and you will NOT be able to return to your SY2011-12 school (or the school that has been intended to replace it) for the 2012-13 school year.
Please complete this survey by Friday, July 27, 2012. Failure to respond will result in your transfer being effectuated. You will be able to print a confirmation page from the survey for your own records.
If you have any questions, technical difficulties, or are not able to complete this survey on-line, please call HR Connect at 718-935-4000. (Do not reply to this email.) Note that you may be receiving duplicate copies of this letter via email and regular mail; you should only respond to the survey once.
Thank you,
Division of Human Resources & Talent
*Reminder: This decision does not preclude any other actions permitted under the contract such as your right to obtain a transfer through the Open Market. Also note that the staffing of the school is still the subject of legal proceedings and may change based on the outcome in that litigation.

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