August 15, 2012
A late-summer city teacher recruitment fair bustled with newly-trained Teaching Fellows and experienced teachers still looking for jobs yesterday.
But no one was lined up to talk to leaders from Food and Finance High School shortly after 4 p.m.
The school has top marks from the Department of Education and a graduation rate that far exceeds the city average. But the fair was less than fruitful, recruiters said, because they only have one position available: a social studies job that is subject to city hiring restrictions.
“All of these young candidates are coming in bright eyed, and yet there’s a freeze on history,” said Joseph Clausi, the high school’s recruiter and an assistant principal. “They come here with these great resumes, and we can’t even talk to them.”
His was among close to 80 schools attending the fair. Others, like Pelham Academy of Academics and Community Engagement, a Bronx middle school the Bronx Theater High School, and representatives from the New Visions Network of schools had lines snaking around the rows of booths set up in an auditorium at Columbia University.
The city has been slowly lifting its three-year-old hiring restrictions, which have limited the numbers of new teachers who can compete for jobs with teachers currently in the city’s system. But there is still a hiring freeze on some teaching areas and subjects, such as high school social studies and regular elementary school positions.
The event was open only to city teachers hunting for new positions, as well as Teaching Fellows, Teach for America recruits, and teachers from outside the school system who had registered with the Department of Education. City officials told principals not to advertise the time or location, which were once posted on the internet but later removed.
Of the 500-some teachers who attended the fair, just under 200 were members of the Absent Teacher Reserve, the pool of teachers without permanent positions. The job fair holds high stakes for those teachers, because if they don’t find a job by the new school year they will be rotated to a new school each week as substitutes, sometimes performing office duties. Schools are required to interview those teachers, but they don’t have to hire them.
City officials said the ATR pool had grown “slightly” from the 830 teachers it held in June. But it is still far smaller than it was at this time last year, when there were 1,900 ATRs.
The city and teachers union have struggled to agree on how to treat ATR members, who stay on the city’s payroll even though they lack permanent teaching assignments. Last year, the solution was to eliminate the budget for substitute teachers and create the rotation system.
This year, the city may have another solution to reduce the cost of the ATR pool: the teachers union and the city are negotiating an ATR buyout option, which would allow teachers who have been in the ATR pool for a certain amount of time to leave the profession in exchange for a portion of their salaries. The option could take effect by September if negotiations succeed, but nothing is certain. Still, some teachers who have been in the ATR pool for several years now see it as a better option than staying in the job-hunting game.
“Everything I’ve taught [via the ATR pool] is outside of my license area. But the truth is, if I accept a new position, I’d be ineligible for the buyout,” One teacher who asked not to be identified and has spent the last five years in the ATR pool, said. “I might not take a position.”
She said she has been hounding union representatives for information on the status of the buyout negotiations, in hopes that they will be complete before she finds a new job. But she was pessimistic about her chances of finding a position anyway, because only a half-dozen elementary schools showed up and their recruiters gave her lukewarm responses.
“My resume says I started teaching in 1975,” she said. She believes those numbers have become a barrier to her job hunt because her salary is on the high-end of the spectrum. The way the city bills schools for salaries penalizes many senior teachers, who cost more than teachers with less experience.
“I brought everything with me today, my students’ scores, but they don’t want to see those,” she said, motioning to a thick file she carried in her tote bag. “They don’t value my experience here. The Fellows are invited, and they are cheaper than I am.”
A Manhattan high school math teacher who just lost her position because she was the least senior teacher on staff said she would not take a buyout offer if given the option.
“I wouldn’t do it,” she said. “I got into this profession because I wanted to teach in New York City schools.”
The teacher was looking for positions in Manhattan and Queens, and left the fair discouraged see that most of the high schools were from the Bronx. But she was able to schedule several follow-up interviews with recruiters.
Tom Miner, a Teaching Fellow seeking his first job as a high school physics teacher, said he felt hopeful about the job hunt because his license area is in high demand.
“Science is in need, and even within science, physics is more in need,” he said. “I dropped off two resumes, which was better than the last fair I was at.”
A minute later, a friend who is also a Teaching Fellow looking for high school physics jobs greeted Miner. “I guess we’re ‘frennemies’,” he joked.