city OK job security for paras
by Natalie Bell
Oct 5, 2006 3:25 PM
After long delays by the city Department of Education combatted by the
persistence and never-give-up attitude of union representatives, the
UFT has reached an agreement with DOE negotiators on final language in
the contract for paraprofessionals. The new agreement makes explicit
the expanded job rights and protections for paras that were intended in
the contract that was ratified last October — including, for the first
time ever, permanent job security.
In addition, the department agreed to make applications for the new
bachelor’s degree salary line available by Oct. 1. Payroll secretaries
will have the applications.
The new job rights for paraprofessionals, effective Sept. 1, 2006,
represent a major step forward in the union’s drive to bring paras’ job
security in line with that of teachers.
Now, with the exception of a major fiscal crisis in the city, paras
whose positions have been cut will not be laid off. This new job
security is linked to two more rights: citywide seniority and the right
to transfer to other schools.
“Our negotiations were never the same after the city laid off 900 paras
at one time three years ago and we filed a discrimination suit,” UFT
President Randi Weingarten told paraprofessional representatives at a
meeting held Sept. 26 at union headquarters to inform them of the
“Although we were successful in recalling all the laid-off paras who
wanted to continue working for the DOE, we said then we wanted paras to
have the same right to open-market transfers, and the job security that
entailed, that teachers have,” she said, prompting hearty applause from
the para reps.
The expanded job rights are the most sweeping improvements in
protections the UFT has ever negotiated for any group of members in a
single contract, Weingarten said.
Paraprofessionals Chapter Leader Shelvy Abrams said it was Weingarten’s
dogged persistence, as DOE negotiators “dragged their feet,” that
finally secured a deal on the language.
“She lit a fire under their feet,” said Abrams of Weingarten. “As long
as paras have been working in classrooms, we have felt we deserved the
same rights and protections as teachers.”
Glenna Flournoy, a para representative who has worked for 22 years at
Alfred E. Smith HS, said she doesn’t want to transfer to another
school, but she’s glad she can now count on keeping her job.
“It punishes the kids when a para leaves,” she said of turnover caused
by frequent layoffs. “They get used to working with you,” she said,
“and it’s difficult to get them to learn after they’ve grown accustomed
to working with another para or teacher.”
The new right of citywide seniority will add years of service to the
records of many paras who have changed districts over the years. Until
now, they lost whatever seniority they had in one district if they were
excessed from one district and had to work in another.
While service credit after July 1, 1994, will be granted automatically,
paras who were employed as paras before that date will have to make
special application for that credit. The details for doing that have
not yet been worked out, but the union will be prepared to help members
complete the application process when it begins on Oct. 15.
“There are paras who have lost 10, 15, 20 years of seniority,” said
Reginald Colvin, para coordinator for Brooklyn. He called the new and
expanded rights “long overdue.” He said he has talked to dozens of
members who are, like him, “excited” and “ecstatic.”
“We really see that when the leaders of the UFT say ‘We are a union of
professionals,’ they mean everybody,” he said.
Under the new protections, if paras are excessed, they will have the
right to be placed in a vacancy, or look for a job on their own at any
school. If either of those options prove unsuccessful, they can serve
in an Absent Para Reserve in their school, or in another school in
their district. If they are placed in another school, they will have
the right, if they so choose, to return to their original school if a
vacancy opens there within a year.
Dusha Kameraj, a para for 14 years at PS 34 on the Lower East Side, has
been excessed three times. Fortunately, her principal has always pulled
her back. But having experienced getting excessed under the old rules,
when she had to apply for unemployment insurance, Kameraj said the new
rules will be less disruptive and save money for everyone, including
the DOE. Some paras already have the APR status in Kameraj’s school and
she said they’re being placed in classrooms to work with students who
need extra help or who have special needs. “They’re not sitting around
twiddling their thumbs,” she said.
The bottom line ...
Paraprofessionals now have:
Transfer rights like teachers
Salary increase for a B.A.
Summary of new provisions in paraprofessionals contract
After hard negotiations and long delays by the DOE, the union and the
department finally have worked out all the language of the
paraprofessional contract (2003-07).
This language is a big step in the union’s drive to expand paras’ job
rights and protections and to bring them into line with those that
teachers have. For the first time ever paraprofessionals have a
meaningful, long-term job security clause, systemwide seniority and the
right to transfer.
Here are the three long-sought new rights:
Permanent job security — Except in the case of a fiscal crisis, paras
cannot be laid off. If you are excessed, you will have the right to be
placed in a vacancy (with the same right of return as teachers have) or
to serve as an Absent Para Reserve in your school or a school in your
Citywide seniority — You will accrue seniority wherever in the city you
work, and take it with you if you change districts. And you will
receive seniority credit for your prior work as a paraprofessional
anywhere in the school system. (See * on page 33 for further info on
credit for prior work.)
Ability to transfer — Each year you will be able to apply for a para
vacancy anywhere in the school system. If you move or are excessed, in
fact, for any reason at all, you will have this right.
The old contract
As you know, since paras joined the UFT in 1969, they have had job
rights only in their district. If there had to be job cutbacks in a
district (because of budget or enrollment declines), the most recently
hired paras in that district were laid off.
Often hundreds of paras lost their jobs across the city, sometimes even
when there were vacancies in other parts of the city. But paras had no
rights to vacancies outside their districts. And if they applied for
them and were hired, they started from zero seniority again in the new
district, so they would be the first to be excessed or laid off again.
The union would fight layoffs every year, including filing a
discrimination suit one year. If you were laid off, the union would
help you to be recalled later in the year. Even so, you lost a lot of
pay in the meantime. Many laid-off paras took jobs in District 75
(which usually had vacancies) even if they didn’t want to, because they
couldn’t afford to be out of a job.
The current contract
The UFT/DOE Memorandum of Agreement signed last year sought to create
substantial new rights for paras that were much like those that
teachers have. In fighting over the actual language of the contract,
that effort came to fruition.
Under this contract, paras, like teachers, will have citywide seniority
(Art. 37C). That means that, if there are job cutbacks in a school and
a para is excessed, her options are not limited, as they were before,
to: a) a position in the district, if there’s one available, or b)
Here’s the change: Now if you are excessed, there will be three options
open to you. Layoff is not one of them!
First option: a placement. If there are no vacancies in the district,
you will have a right to be placed in a vacancy anywhere in the region,
and if there are no vacancies there, then anywhere in the borough, and
then anywhere in the city (Art. 12D).
That must be a real vacancy; there will be no more bumping of junior
paras. But it is much more likely that you will get a placement if you
can go borough- or citywide. And remember, you take your seniority with
The only reason you might not get one of those vacancies is if the
principal, after interviewing you, does not want to hire you. That,
too, is just like the teachers contract. No one has an absolute right
to a particular position; the principal has to want you.
And here’s another new right: the Right of Return. If you are excessed
to another school, and a vacancy opens up in your old school any time
within the next year, you can go back to your old school (Art. 12D,
What if you don’t want to travel to another region or borough? Or
maybe, if there are no vacancies in the region, they want to place you
at a District 75 site, and you don’t want to work with disabled
children? (You are eligible for a District 75 placement once you move
beyond your region. But keep in mind, the District 75 site may be in
your neighborhood or even right in your school.)
If you don’t want a DOE placement, you have the second option — a
Just like teachers, if you don’t want the DOE to place you in a
position, you can look for a position on your own and, if you get it,
transfer to that school.
In fact, the right to transfer from one school to another is a new
right for all paraprofessionals, whether you are excessed or just want
to change schools (Art. 14). And with citywide seniority, you don’t
have to stay in your district just to maintain your seniority — another
Every spring and summer, when vacancies are posted, you can apply for
any job. All new schools will post vacancies, too. You can even apply
to a school that has no posted vacancies but you want the school to
keep you in mind if a vacancy should occur.
You’ll probably have to go for an interview or a job fair, but if the
principal wants to hire you, you are free to go. (If you are hired
after Aug. 7, you have to get your current principal’s permission.)
So that’s two ways to get a job: accept a placement, or get a transfer.
But even in the unlikely case that there are no vacancies in the city,
or no principal wants you, you will still be guaranteed a job!
That’s the third option. If nothing else is available, you will be
placed in an Alternative Paraprofessional Reserve in your home school
or in another school in the same district or superintendency. That
means you are on the staff of that school and will fill in for an
absent para or do other paraprofessional work. (You cannot be sent to
another school as a substitute para.) You will also have priority for a
placement as they open up.
*Citywide seniority credit — Paras will automatically be credited with
service after July 1, 1994 (because the DOE has that information).
Service prior to that date will be credited if paras provide proof of
that service by Feb. 15, 2007. A list of acceptable proof is being