Tag Archives: guidance counselors

Teachers, School Leaders (and a Neighbor) Views on the New Teacher Contract: Taking the Pulse

A completely unscientific poll of teachers, school leaders and a neighbor responding to:

What do you think about the new teacher contract?

I texted, messaged, called and spoke with a range of folks…

Senior Teacher: I have a few years to go before retirement, I would have like more dollars, I have to decide whether it pays to stick it out through the end of the contract – less paperwork, keeping my principal off my back is a good think, otherwise, I really don’t care.

Third Year Teacher: I’m enthusiastic, there seems to be many educational items, I don’t fully understand them but it looks like the contract is “professionalizing” teaching, a good thing.

Tenth Year Teacher: I’m overjoyed, I always get excellent observations, I get along with my school leadership, and these new titles with higher pay are really attractive. I have my supervisory credentials but I really don’t want to become a boss – I was seriously thinking about applying for a job outside the city – I guess this might have been aimed at teachers like me.

An ATR: I’m petrified! This is my fourth year in the pool – I have twenty years in the system but I’m a long way from retirement. My school closed and the new schools only wanted young teachers. In the first year I went on lots of interviews – never a nibble. The last few years my ATR Field Supervisor has observed me – written satisfactory observations – if principals still don’t like me does it mean I get fired?

Teacher in a Low Performing School: I have to look into the $5,000 bonus for teachers in difficult schools – sounds like what they did in the old Chancellor’s District. My school has flirted with a closing list for years – I’m curious what this all means.

A Network Staff Member: My e-mailbox is full! I changed my phone message to “I don’t know anything about the contract.” How do you apply to become an Innovation School? Will I have to change Networks? Who decides on which teachers can bump up to the new, higher paying titles? Will the bucks come out of my budget? Will there be bonuses for principals? I have no idea and tell them “stay tuned.”

An ATR Guidance Counselor: What happens to a guidance counselor? As far as I can see principals have cut counseling staffs and I don’t see them re-hiring counselors? I hope the union calls a meeting for ATR counselors and explains the ATR provisions to us.

A School Leader: I hope teacher observations will become saner, and, hopefully fewer observations per teacher. I actually like being in classrooms talking to kids and working with teachers – I would much rather be able to observe new and probationary teachers more frequently and senior teachers less frequently. I would like to set up some inter visitations – now – I spend endless hours writing up observations and inputting data.

A Recent Retiree: Do I get retroactive pay? I retired in 2012 and would have received raises if a contract was negotiated back then … doesn’t seem fair if I don’t.

A Long Time Retiree: I’m happy for my working colleagues – when I retired salaries were a lot less than they are now – thank goodness I plowed dollars into my TDA (Tax Deferred Annuity) – I’m worried about the health plans – compared to my non-teacher friends we have a spectacular plan – saving a billion dollars sounds like we’re going to have to pay more … guess I’ll just wait and see and hope for the best.

My Neighbor: Good for the teachers – they deserve it – as long as it doesn’t bankrupt the city. Sounds like they got a good deal and sounds like its reasonable – stretching out the payments for past years seems reasonable – hopefully it can bring some sense to this testing stuff – parents I meet think it’s onerous and harmful to kids.

Teachers have many questions, and are generally positive, not ecstatic, hopeful probably describes attitudes. The only really negative comments come from the opposition caucus within the union, who, like the Republicans in Congress who oppose everything the Obama administration does, will pan everything the Mulgrew administration does, that’s politics today. And, not surprisingly the City Journal, the publication of the conservative Manhattan Institute, decries the contract as dragging the city to doom, of course, the author, Steve Malanga, also supports total vouchers and the privatization of all city services. Let’s hire the “best and the brightest,” fire the malingerers, and pay as little as possible, not exactly a formula for creating and sustaining high performing schools.

In 1995 I was at a union staff retreat a few days before the opening of school – the union had been negotiating with the Giuliani administration for months, the rumors leaked to the staff, the union agreed on a five year contract proposal with the first two years – no raises. One of my colleagues was on the negotiating team, I asked, “Marvin, this is crazy.” Marvin shrugged; this is what the union leadership decided. Additionally, there was a “retention incentive,” 5% of new teacher’s salary was withheld for five years, those who left before five years would forfeit the 5%. As I raced from school to school to “explain and sell” the contract I was pilloried by the membership. The field staff was delivering a message that the union leadership did not want to hear. The contract was voted down – six months later a similar contract, without the “retention incentive” passed easily.

The current union leadership uses a 300-member negotiating team as a “sounding board,” the members across the union spectrum by age and level and political caucus all give feedback to the union policymakers – these days the leadership takes the pulse of the membership.

The current contract, in my view, will be overwhelmingly approved by the membership, the $1,000 “signing bonus,” is a nice fillip.

The union is building a FAQ site (Frequently Asked Questions) – don’t be shy – click and ask: https://uft.wufoo.com/forms/ask-a-question-about-the-proposed-contract/

Farina Negotiates in Public: Is She “Mis-Speaking” or Challenging the Union?

Speaking at a City Council hearing, Chancellor Carmen Fariña was unequivocal that the city would stick with its current policy of not forcing teachers to work in specific schools or principals to accept teachers they don’t want.

“There will be no forced placement of staff,” she told Council members. ”This is one of the things, when I come back in a couple of weeks, we’ll be happy to discuss.”

One of the ironclad rules of negotiations is that you negotiate in private, never in public, unless you want to send a message to the other side. Whether Chancellor Farina was speaking on her own or carrying a message from the de Blasio administration is crucial. After a bargaining session with the Bloomberg/Klein crowd, no matter the confidentiality agreements, you knew the NY Post or the Wall Street Journal, the Murdoch press, would have the story, at least the mayor’s side of the story, before you got back to the office.

Both de Blasio and union leader Mulgrew have answered every question about negotiations with the same answer, “We don’t negotiate in public.” the union has to ask, have the rules changed? Do Farina’s comments mean the mayor is following the Bloomberg/Klein playbook?

The Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) pool is made up of over 1,000 folks with pedagogical titles: teachers, guidance counselors, principals and assistant principals who have been bumped from their schools mosly due to school closings. The lower salaried teachers tend to get absorbed into schools, the higher salaried ATRs not so because they carry their salary under the department’s Weighted Student Funding formula.

For a couple of years the department has supported ATR Field Supervisors who regularly observe and rate ATR performance. A few percent are at the low end of the scale, the vast majority in the middle of the curve.

The ATR system costs the city $100,000,000 a year – dollars that can buy many pre-k and after school slots.

Bloomberg/Klein, and apparently Farina insisted that principals alone should choose all staff. They haven’t done such a good job! Teacher attrition continues to rise and thousands of teachers change schools every year under the Open Market system. Any teacher, regardless of seniority can move to any school – principals in higher achieving schools located in “safer” neighborhoods routinely snatch teachers from lower achieving schools in tougher neighborhoods.

30% to 40% of probationary teachers have their tenure extended, new teacher hired by current principals. There is absolutely no evidence that the current ATR system has better outcomes than simply assigning excess teachers to schools with vacancies.

For decades teachers who were excessed, bumped out of their schools due to loss of enrolment and/or funding, were routinely assigned to other schools.

Is retaining the ATR system worth a hundred million dollars a year?

At the same City Council meeting the chancellor emphasized increasing the number of guidance counselors in school, has anyone told her there are 200 or so counselors in the ATR pool, guidance counselors rotating from school to school on a weekly basis?

The chancellor also spoke to increasing the arts in schools, and hinted at using the punitive School Progress Report, a “stick” to increase arts education. For the last twelve years schools/teachers have been beaten regularly with bad letter grade and school closings – the whip and the cudgel never increase performance.

How about a competitive grant program so that schools can create arts programs?

You get a lot more with candy than with vinegar.

The union and teachers really want to like the chancellor, after all she “one of us.” Mulgrew announced at the delegates meeting that the chancellor will be invited to numerous teacher events. She will be on the stage answering questions from teachers at the breakfast section of the UFT Spring Conference.

The glow of honeymoons rapidly fades away and the reality grabs hold. Teachers want a leader who is both sensitive to the indignities of the past and willing to lead the charge into the future, negotiating a “fair” contract, with appropriate financial remuneration, as well as fixing the insanely complicated and mind-numbing teacher evaluation system. A chancellor who can stand up to Albany and lead the fight to delay the full implementation of Common Core tests, a chancellor who can lead the battle nationally to restructure the insidious impact of No Child Left Behind.

We deserve a chancellor who can stand up to Arne Duncan and the assault on public education. The education system in New York City is frayed by inattention to the needs of children, families and practitioners and being used as a place to experiment, to introduce one “idea” after another that had little to do with teaching and learning.

We need a modern-day Jeanne d’Arc.

“She was truthful when lying was the common speech of men; she was honest when honest was become a lost virtue; she was a keeper of promises when the keeping of a promise was expected of no one; … she was full of pity when a merciless cruelty was the rule; she was steadfast when stability was unknown, and honorable in an age which had forgotten what honor was; she was a rock of convictions in a time when men believed in nothing and scoffed at all things; she was unfailingly true in an age that was false to the core; … she was of a dauntless courage when hope and courage had perished in the hearts of her nation…” Mark Twain, Joan of Arc