Union to detail ATR plan at meetings for position-less teachers

One month into the school year, the United Federation of Teachers is hosting a series of meetings for the teachers without permanent assignments in city schools who comprise the controversial Absent Teacher Reserve.

Set for each borough over the next week, the meetings are meant to explain the deal the teachers union struck with the city this summer over the ATR pool to avoid teacher layoffs, according to Peter Kadushin, a UFT spokesman.

Representatives from the union will also field feedback from teachers about the deal, which requires teachers in the ATR pool to be reassigned to different schools multiple times over the course of the year. In previous years, teachers whose positions had been eliminated were typically assigned to one school for the entire year.

The first meeting was scheduled for today at the union’s Bronx office — with meetings at UFT offices in other boroughs to follow. In the past, the union has held meetings for teachers in the ATR pool at its central office at the beginning of the school year, Kadushin said.

Teachers in the ATR pool have been working in temporary jobs inside schools that were assigned by the DOE for the month of September. Next week, the teachers will begin rotating to substitute teaching positions throughout the school system on a weekly basis — assignments they expect to receive from the DOE later this week.

ATR teachers say they view the UFT meetings as an opportunity to get more information about an assignment process that has left many feeling frustrated and disenfranchised and suggest solutions to a concern that many share: that schools are unlikely to hire from the ATR pool.

One Bronx-based, high school technology teacher said he would like to ask the city to help him pay for certification in a different area, such as social studies or math, where more positions are available.

“There need to be more retraining opportunities for these teachers,” he said. Though he has searched for permanent positions at multiple teacher job fairs this summer, the teacher said he feels “helpless,” waiting to find out where he will be teaching next week.

“We don’t have a handle on the situation, we control nothing,” he said. “I just sit back and watch the mess.”

An audit released by the city comptroller’s office earlier this month criticized the DOE for not doing enough to help teachers in the ATR pool find new jobs. The report also suggested that the city is wasting money when it allows schools to hire new teachers, rather than fill open positions from the ATR pool.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.