On the hunt (updated)

Teachers in ATR pool get first temporary assignment of many

The Department of Education gave out temporary assignments yesterday to nearly 2,000 teachers who are on the city payroll but who do not have permanent jobs in schools.

That didn’t stop dozens of teachers from lining up outside the Brooklyn Museum yesterday afternoon for one of the last hiring fairs before school starts next week. Members of the Absent Teacher Reserve, the pool of teachers whose positions have been cut, mostly due to budget cuts or school closures, received special invitations to the job fair from the DOE, encouraging them to be “proactive” in their job search.

If those teachers are not offered jobs this week, they will be asked to rotate between different schools on a weekly basis as substitute teachers, according to an arrangement made by the teachers union and the DOE earlier this summer to avoid teacher layoffs. In previous years, ATRs were typically assigned to one school for the entire year to cover for absent teachers.

There were 1,940 teachers in the ATR pool as of Aug. 19. Typically, the pool shrinks in the first weeks of the school year as principals hasten to fill open positions.

Those who logged into the job portal for excessed teachers yesterday morning found information on what schools to report to in September.

English teacher Jerome Madramootoo, who was excessed after the city began phasing out Jamaica High School in June, said he was assigned to work at Newtown High School in Queens next month, but given no specific information about what he would be doing there.

Madramootoo said he hoped it would be teaching English, his license area. But he said he wondered what impact he could make on a temporary basis. He came to the job fair armed with a copy of the high school year book he helped produce at Jamaica High School in 2010. He said he wouldn’t be able to lead long-term projects like year books as a substitute teacher.

“The only benefit is that you still have your salary,” he said. “But who would you learn more from, a teacher you had for the full year, or a teacher you had for a half year, or a week? I can’t finish a novel with you, I can’t get into poetry with you in just a week.”

He decried the lack of stability in the new ATR system, and said it hurts students by denying them regular access to qualified teachers.

“You can’t bond with students if there’s no stability. This agreement is not about the students at all.”

Other teachers at the job fair said they were willing to take their chances on the weekly substitute teaching assignments, even though they acknowledged that their experience would be wasted.

“I feel like I’m robbing the kids,” said one Brooklyn elementary school teacher whose position, which she held for five years, fell victim to last-minute budget cuts.

She said this job fair was her first, and she deliberately did not make much of an effort to find a new position.

“I got an assignment for September at a middle school, but I teach elementary school,” she said. “And [a colleague] told me that at the beginning of the year, you don’t really do anything because there aren’t very many teachers absent anyway. If the DOE doesn’t take this seriously, why should I?”


Correction: A previous version of this article stated that the job fair was intended for excessed teachers only. According to DOE officials, other people  were also invited to attend.

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

More in What's Your Education Story?

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.