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

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 [email protected]

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.”