Strange happenings ... There are ATRs in the teacher's lounge of my school. Let me explain.
As you probably know, starting this summer the Mayor put a freeze on hiring of any non-DOE teachers. So teachers who just moved to the city, as well as newbies out of any teacher prep program, including NYC Teaching Fellows and TFA, have all been left with no job prospects in the public schools. This is because of the ATRs, who are teachers who have been excessed — NOT fired — from their positions.
Excessing happens when funding for a position closes up or a school closes down. Now, it is pretty difficult to fire a tenured teacher. It requires lots of documentation from the principal, multiple chances for the teacher to redeem him or herself, and there is strong legal representation for all teachers provided by the union, so even in the clearest of cases, it can take a few years. Many principals take the easy way out and simply dry up the position, thereby excessing the unwanted teacher. Often this is nothing more than a bad match between teacher and principal/school, and such teachers secure positions at other schools quickly. In other cases, the excessed teacher doesn't find a position at another school, but continues to receive his or her salary from the DOE as per the contract — if you're not fired, then you still have a job, even if that job is actually no job at all.
My school had a number of vacancies at the end of last year. We were able to hire a bunch of experienced NYC teachers who were fleeing their schools for the greener pastures promised by my school (I hope we're delivering!). But a few positions remained open. My principal interviewed 37 ATRs.