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Reorganization agreement – transfers

April 29, 2007 pm30 10:09 pm

When the City announced its reorganization plan, it threw poison into an already problematic transfer process.

We may lose more rounds. But we are answering. Our answers should be public and involve our members directly. Collective response, even if it is weak at first, is an important step towards restoring our strength, towards more effective responses down the line.

Seniority transfers once held sway. Half of a school’s vacancies had to be filled by seniority transfers, and the positions of unlicensed teachers were considered vacancies. That’s how it was when I started working for the NYC Board of Education in the late 90’s.

(more beneath the fold —>)

Some schools used School Based Option (SBO) transfers instead. The school created local criteria, interviewed, and from those who met the criteria, hired the most senior. The UFT Chapter was heavily involved on the hiring side. There was lots of wiggle room for abuse, but only within a fairly narrow range. I do confess having had some misgivings about the whole thing when I sat with my principal on one side of a table, with an unsuccessful applicant on the other, and an arbitrator at the end, but only some. Our process was pretty clean.

Not only did SBO transfers work (more or less), but there was a contractual agreement to replace seniority transfers by SBO transfers throughout the system. There was also a requirement that schools opt into the SBO transfer system, and do so annually, which nullified the first agreement. In theory, though, seniority transfers were being phased out.

In the 2005 contract both seniority and SBO transfers were eliminated. They were replaced with an open market system in which anyone could transfer anywhere, but the principal had final say, and only needed to consult with a committee.

And now, ooph. The principal will pay each teacher’s actual salary out of budget. There is a phase in, so it only goes for new teachers, for now. When a principal has a new vacancy, he was only going to get a new teacher’s salary to fill it with. That’s what the DoE proposed, and it was going to pretty much shut senior teachers out of the market for transfers.

The UFT renegotiated things a bit, and made a gain related to funding for the system as a whole. But the result is no better for teachers. Under the initial DoE proposal, when a teacher retired, the school got a minimum salary to replace him or her. Now, the school keeps the entire salary, and can use it to hire another senior teacher, or can use it to hire a newer teacher, and the principal keeps the difference in the budget. Most principal’s love extra cash sloshing around the budget; they can use it for, among other things, the per session they use to buy loyalty.

(Before this reorganization, the schools paid more for higher-salaried teachers, but were budgeted almost dollar for dollar to pay for who they had. There was every incentive to hire the best teachers available, and none to bypass experienced educators).

In fact, a commenter on Edwize pointed out, now the most unscrupulous principal’s will have incentive to get senior teachers to leave prematurely.

But are transfers for senior teachers important? There are not that many senior teachers left in the system. And they are not particularly mobile, many presumably having already transferred to places they wanted to teach in. But not all. We have UFT brothers and sisters who are going to be stuck in lousy places.

Worse, the DoE is phasing out many large schools. Senior teachers are often very loyal, staying up until the last year. Where will they go? In the Bronx alone we have three large high schools phasing out, and several more “phasing down.”

What now?

At the DA, a Bronx District Rep said this is a 15 round fight, and we have just won the 2nd round, or something like that. In fact, it feels more like we lost the round, but were able to mitigate the harm somewhat.

We are pursuing a grievance. I wish I knew the details, but I am assuming that there is a violation of the open market, by making it difficult for a teacher to transfer on his or her abilities alone.

We should

  • Continue the grievance
  • Publicize the grievance
  • Consider an age-discrimination law suit
  • Clearly tell our members that the DoE has delivered us a setback on transfers, but that we are responding
  • Consider trying to negotiate a clause that will get schools extra funding for accepting a teacher out of a school that’s closing down. (Keep the previous teacher’s salary + the difference between minimum and what the transferee makes?)
  • Collect the data, openly and publicly. Members are embarassed that they are forced to beg for work. Speak openly, take away the shame. Let’s go into the phase-out schools and let the members there, the ones the DoE is directly vicitimizing, let them take on the role of chief accusers. Track their applications and rejections and use the data in our grievance and (if we start one) lawsuit.

We may lose more rounds. But we are answering. Our answers should be public and involve our members directly. Collective response, even if it is weak at first, is an important step towards restoring our strength, towards more effective responses down the line.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. jeff kilmer permalink
    April 30, 2007 am30 2:03 am 2:03 am

    The Open Market system is a joke. For example, science has always been a department with many vacancies, particularly at the high school level. I have noticed that very few positions have been posted since the last time I looked, which was about 1 week ago. This could be because schools still don’t know exactly how many vacancies they will have due to retirements, last minute resignations, etc. There has to be a better way to do this.

  2. fred permalink
    May 4, 2007 am31 2:13 am 2:13 am

    About 300 city-wide mentors, most of us long-time members of the UFT, have been excessed and told to to go open market.

  3. May 4, 2007 am31 3:37 am 3:37 am

    Thank you for passing on this important information. I am going to suggest that the UFT work with the mentors, both to help find placement, and to document how senior teachers are treated on the “Open Market.”

    We have 300 mentors? I assume most of you will be looking for new placement. Do you think anyone would object to sharing information about where you’ve applied, been interviewed, etc?

  4. fred permalink
    May 4, 2007 am31 4:07 am 4:07 am

    Yes, we have just under 300 mentors and we are being phased out just like the schools that are closing. I think the union let us down. They started mentoring in the first place! Remember peer coaching?
    Now, we have lost the right of return as well and nobody but me is complaining as far as I know. Will discuss your request with some of the group. However, please get this out on the internet. Spreading the word will go a long way in building collective action. Thanks.

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