About 420 New York City teachers and guidance counselors will have to reapply for their jobs this spring at six bottom-ranked schools that were given the grim label “out of time” by the state.
The state-ordered rehiring process, which is rare for tenured teachers, could lead to major staff shakeups and recruitment challenges. When two other long-struggling schools were forced to undergo that process last year, a majority of teachers chose to leave or were not rehired.
State officials have said the process is meant to replace any “unwilling or ineffective” staffers at these schools, where the average graduation rate last year was nearly 27 points below the city average. (At the one middle school in the group, J.H.S. 80 in the Bronx, only 5 percent of students passed last year’s state math exams.) But finding teachers to replace those who leave can be difficult.
Last year, 24 of 38 teachers at Automotive High School in Brooklyn left after the rehiring process, in most cases because they decided not to reapply. Now, about 40 percent of the struggling school’s teachers are beginners, according to Principal Caterina Lafergola.
“Many of the schools that are going through the rehiring have a stigma attached to them,” she said. “It’s very hard to recruit strong candidates.”
The six schools are Herbert H. Lehman High School, Banana Kelly High School, J.H.S. 80, and Fordham Leadership Academy for Business and Technology in the Bronx; along with August Martin High School and John Adams High School in Queens. Those six were designated by the state last year as “out of time” because they have gone so long without making significant improvements, joining Automotive and Boys and Girls High School, which were identified a year earlier.
State officials have made clear that the schools must make rapid gains or they risk being shuttered. The schools, which are part of the city’s “Renewal” improvement program, were forced to lengthen their days, and teachers were required to undergo additional training during the school year and summer.
The pressure appears to be taking a toll on some staffers. When principals at the six schools had to reapply for their jobs last summer, at least one chose not to reapply and others decided to retire, according to the principals union.
Now some teachers are questioning whether they want to return. A teacher who has worked at one of the high schools for nearly a decade said he has decided not to reapply because of changes in the school administration and the added scrutiny on the school.
“You walk down the halls and people are just saying, I’m not reapplying to this,” he said. “I’m not coming back to this school.”
Some staffers have been asked to submit resumes, letters of recommendation, and work portfolios, teachers said. Then they must be interviewed by selection committees that include the principal, teachers union representatives, and education department appointees.
The job uncertainty has darkened the mood at some schools, said Jeffrey Greenberg, a math teacher and union representative at Lehman High School.
“Normally this time of year we’d be talking about how we’re going to get our kids to improve on their Regents scores,” he said. “That conversation is not being done now because our life, in many ways, is in front of us.”
According to an agreement between the city and teachers union, any teachers who decide not to reapply or are not rehired — and who do not find positions elsewhere — will be assigned to another school in their borough that has an opening for which they are licensed. Unlike teachers in the city’s Absent Teacher Reserve, who are paid by the city as they rotate among schools until they find a permanent placement, the out-of-time school teachers will remain at their assigned schools for the entire school year.
If principals want to remove an assigned teacher, a superintendent and teachers union representative must sign off — an arrangement some critics have compared to former policy called “forced placement,” where the city sent displaced teachers to schools without principals’ input. But city and principals union officials say the new process is different because the placements are not permanent, the city pays the teachers’ salaries, and principals can assign the teachers any role, not just as classroom instructors.
Education department spokeswoman Devora Kaye pointed out that the city-union rehiring deal does not stipulate that a minimum number of teachers be rehired, and added that the city would organize recruitment events during the spring and summer.
“To effectively turn a school around, there must be the right leadership, the right teachers, and the right school staff to improve student achievement,” she said in a statement, adding that the city is “working closely with each school during the hiring process to support educators while holding them accountable.”
Update: This story has been updated to reflect revised figures from the education department. About 420 teachers and staffers will have to reapply for their jobs, not 500.