Grievance settlement gives protections to teachers in excess
by Dorothy Callaci | published September 27, 2012

The recent settlement of a union-initiated grievance provides stronger protections for teachers serving in the Absent Teacher Reserve pool and new provisions governing their assignments.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew noted in announcing the settlement that it would save the city millions of dollars and keep experienced teachers in the classroom where they belong.

The union filed the grievance on behalf of all members who have been placed in excess once it was confirmed that principals were failing to comply with or simply ignoring the June 2011 agreement that made changes to how teachers in the ATR pool are deployed.

Under the settlement, principals have been instructed that they must use members from the excess pool and not per-diem substitutes to fill leaves, long-term absences — now defined as longer than 29 workdays — and vacancies. Teachers in excess filling these positions cannot be rotated week-to-week unless the principal requests a change.

In the week-to-week rotations, early childhood-licensed teachers can no longer be sent to junior high schools and junior high school-licensed teachers cannot be sent to elementary schools to fill early childhood positions. But junior high school teachers can be sent to elementary schools to fill common-branch assignments.

From now on, members in excess in the Brooklyn and Staten Island High School District (BASIS) can be assigned to schools only in the same borough as the school from which they were excessed.

Under the settlement, members in excess who agree to be provisionally hired must be treated the same as all other school employees. At the end of the school year, if the member wants to remain at the school and the principal agrees, the member will take his or her rightful place in seniority order. Both the provisional hire agreement and the agreement to make the assignment permanent must be in writing.

Both the original 2011 agreement and the new provisions and stronger protections will be monitored by a strengthened Joint Oversight Committee charged with resolving any infractions as they arise. If a problem cannot be resolved, the member now has the right to grieve.

Teachers in the ATR pool, who have been forced to leave their schools because of declining enrollments or school closings, have always had the full support of the union. Mulgrew has long pressed the Department Of Education to use teachers who have been excessed to fill long-term leaves and absences as both a contractual obligation and a prudent way to save money.

“By living up to its agreement and using these experienced teachers in the ATR pool instead of hiring outside substitutes, the city will not only save millions of dollars but kids will continue to have great teachers in their classrooms every day,” he said.