The scoop

After a long battle, an ultimatum for jobless Teaching Fellows

Dozens of first-year teachers originally slated to lose their jobs in early December have only three more weeks to secure a permanent position or be fired, a state labor arbitrator ruled today.

According to the ruling, the new teachers, most of whom were hired through the Teaching Fellows program, will go off the Department of Education’s payroll on Feb. 2 if they have not been hired by a principal by then.

The ruling concludes a months-long fight by new hires who entered a tighter-than-usual teacher labor market this fall. Facing a hefty bill for teachers who weren’t actually filling empty positions, the DOE planned to fire unplaced new teachers on Dec. 5, in accordance with a contract the teachers had signed when they accepted their spot in the Teaching Fellows program, which places unlicensed teachers in hard-to-fill positions. But the United Federation of Teachers filed a grievance contending that the teachers were protected by the job security clause in the union’s contract with the city and so should say on the DOE’s payroll.

When the issue went to arbitration in December, the union was hopeful that the teachers’ jobs would be protected through the end of the school year, UFT spokesman Ron Davis told me. But the arbitrator did not accept the union’s claim that unplaced Teaching Fellows are covered by the contract’s job security clause, instead ruling that they should be considered regular substitutes. According to the contract, regular substitutes cannot be terminated in the middle of the term. Feb. 2 marks the end of the semester in the city’s schools.

According to DOE spokeswoman Ann Forte, 44 Teaching Fellows are still without permanent positions, down from 88 on Dec. 2, the original termination date. In addition, she said seven teachers hired this fall by the DOE’s central administration still have not found positions in schools.

In an e-mail today, the UFT encouraged teachers affected by today’s ruling to attend a special hiring fair being held Sunday for all teachers who lack permanent positions. In addition to the new teachers who have never held a permanent position in a city school, the DOE employs hundreds of experienced teachers whose positions were eliminated when the schools where they worked downsized or closed.

Below, the e-mail the UFT is sending to Teaching Fellows without jobs:

Dear [Teaching Fellow],

Your job is secure through Feb. 2, 2009.

An arbitrator agreed with the UFT that the DOE did not have the right to terminate you on Dec. 5, regardless of the language in the pre-employment contract that the New York City Department of Education required you to sign.

We filed a grievance in October arguing that teaching fellows like yourself who had not found permanent positions were being improperly terminated because the DOE pre-employment contract allowing for your early termination does not supersede the UFT/DOE collective-bargaining agreement. Then we got a court injunction earlier this month preventing the DOE from terminating you until an arbitrator had ruled on our grievance.

The arbitrator found that as regular substitutes, which are covered under Article 5C3 of the UFT/DOE contract, you are guaranteed employment through the end of term, which is Feb. 2, 2009. (In addition, you will have earned one month of summer pay for working the entire fall term.) We contended that the job-security clause in the UFT/DOE contract protected teaching fellows from layoffs, but the arbitrator rejected that argument. You now have until Feb. 2 to secure a permanent assignment.

The UFT job conference for ATRs is this Sunday, Jan. 11. If you have not yet registered, sign up today. Don’t miss out on this great opportunity!

Go here for more details and online registration.

The conference will include workshops on how to make your resume and cover letter stand out, how to create a memorable portfolio and how to ace the interview. In addition, you will be able to work one-on-one with video professionals to create your own “video cover letter” for the union’s new ATR and RTR resume bank Web site, which will be launched on Sunday. (Check on Monday for the link to the new Web site under “Resources for UFT Members.”)

We realize this has been a stressful time for you. We hope this news provides some relief and that the jobs conference and resume Web site help you land a position in the coming weeks.


Randi Weingarten
UFT President

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

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.