turnaround turnaround (Updated)

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.


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.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at cbauman@chalkbeat.org.

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”