Teachers mostly wore grim expressions as they walked out of the Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation Monday afternoon. They had just left a staff meeting where their principal and superintendent explained that the school would be shut down after this year.
“It’s devastating,” one teacher said as she walked briskly to her car. “Now I need to look for a new job.”
That same day, the New York City education department announced plans to close 14 schools across four boroughs, which would leave more than 400 educators searching for new jobs after the school year ends. What’s next for those teachers depends on the city’s plans for their schools — and whether principals want to hire them.
The city will replace some of the shuttered schools with new ones, where the displaced teachers would get first dibs on a portion of the spots. In schools that close and are not replaced, teachers will have to look for jobs elsewhere.
Those who don’t get hired will enter the Absent Teacher Reserve, a pool of teachers who lost their permanent positions or have faced legal or disciplinary problems but still collect full salaries. An influx of new teachers could set back Mayor Bill de Blasio’s quest to shrink the pool, which cost the city $152 million last year.
But the education department said it expects most of the teachers will find their way into permanent classrooms. Only 10 out of roughly 130 educators who were impacted by closures last year still remain in the reserve, according to department figures.
“We’re confident that we’ll be able help teachers at closing schools secure new positions for next year,” education department spokesman Michael Aciman said in an email.
Many of the closing schools have been struggling for years, which could put a stain on teachers as they interview for new positions.
But according to education department data, 92 percent of the schools’ teachers were rated effective or highly effective — not much lower than the 97 percent of teachers citywide who earned positive reviews. On average, they have nine years of experience.
At a press conference Monday, schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña said the education department had worked to attract more highly rated teachers and those with leadership experience to the low-performing schools in the city’s “Renewal” turnaround program, which includes nine of the closing schools.
“Our expectation is that, in many of these schools, we now have a higher level of teacher,” she said.
Both the education department and United Federation of Teachers say they will work to match teachers to open positions. Every year, the city hires about 6,000 new teachers.
Education department officials said they will help teachers find openings in their license areas, review their resumes and provide interview coaching, and organize recruitment events. Union officials promised to provide similar supports.
“We will work with the DOE and the teachers to provide whatever assistance is needed,” union spokesman Dick Riley said in an email.
In cases where the city opens news schools to replace those it shuts down, half of the new teaching positions must be reserved for educators from the closed schools, according to the teachers contract. However, teachers from the closed schools must still choose to apply for the positions, and have licenses that match the openings. They also have to be qualified under the criteria for the job.
The city also plans to combine some small schools. In those cases, the union expects that many teachers will simply be absorbed into the consolidated schools — though it’s possible some of their positions may be eliminated.
Patrick Wall contributed reporting.