New York City found classroom jobs since mid-October for only a fraction of the teachers in a pool of excess faculty that cost $150 million last year, despite predicting there would be up to 400 vacant positions for them.
Only 41 teachers from the pool were assigned to classrooms in yearlong spots since Oct. 15. The city Department of Education had warned principals that it would send such teachers to fill openings after that deadline. Officials said Thursday that there were fewer slots than expected because some schools lost enrollment and didn’t need more staff, or had teachers returning from leaves.
City officials sparked an outcry last summer by announcing they planned to use a much-criticized pool of roving substitutes to fill yearlong spots. Opponents said many weak teachers would be forced on students and principals, over their objections. On Thursday they reiterated their concerns, and said teachers from this pool were sent disproportionately to schools where students need the most help.
The Education Trust-New York, which advocates for equal access to quality instruction, said its analysis showed the schools getting assignments from the pool had, on average, higher percentages of students who are low-income, black or academically struggling than the city as a whole. “This raises major equity concerns,” said executive director Ian Rosenblum, adding the public still lacked information about the teachers’ effectiveness and length of time in the pool.
Department officials said it made sense to fill vacancies from this pool of tenured teachers already on the payroll, who often serve as substitutes in monthly rotations. The fluctuating pool, which had about 1,200 teachers on the first day of school in September and 884 on Dec. 1, is made up largely of teachers who lost positions when schools closed or downsized, or following disciplinary cases. Department officials said none of the 41 placed since Oct. 15 had entered the so-called Absent Teacher Reserve after a legal matter or disciplinary case.
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The officials said schools had chosen to hire another 318 teachers from the pool since mid-August in permanent posts or provisional ones that could be lasting if the teachers get good reviews.
Some principals say they have hired good teachers from this pool, but caution that many teachers who linger in it for years are poor performers or don’t even try to get jobs. The department said salaries and benefits for the pool cost about $150 million in the 2016-17 academic year, which started with about 1,500 employees in the reserve. The department has sought to shrink the pool through financial incentives for teachers to resign, and in some cases giving subsidies to city schools that hire them.
Randy Asher, the department’s adviser for talent management, said the placements since Oct. 15 were a service to students who needed qualified teachers and stability, and he “worked hand in hand” with principals in deciding on assignments in subjects where teachers are licensed.
Jenny Sedlis, executive director of StudentsFirstNY, a pro-charter group that pushes for stringent teacher ratings, objected to this deployment from the pool. “Parents don’t want them. Principals don’t want them,” she said by email, and Mayor Bill de Blasio “needs to put the best teachers in the classroom, not the leftovers.”
Charter schools, which are publicly funded but run independently of the district, do their own hiring and aren’t assigned any teachers from the pool.
The 41 teachers were placed in 20 of the city’s 32 districts, with the highest number, six, in Manhattan’s District 2, which includes the Upper East Side, and south of 59th Street on the West Side. Only one went to a struggling “renewal” school, in response to the high school’s request, a department spokesman said. If the teachers get effective ratings and their schools still have vacancies next school year, they will be hired permanently on the school’s budget.
The Council of School Supervisors & Administrators, a union representing principals, said it has been assured by the education department that the placements were made in students’ best interests. “While we will monitor this closely, we are pleased that we have not heard anything to the contrary,” said President Mark Cannizzaro.
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