City Will Move Sidelined Teachers From Limbo to Classrooms

With the beginning of the school year weeks away, principals and others who work in education are wary.

Harry Sherman, the principal of Junior High School 127, Castle Hill Middle School, in the Bronx, said that while some teachers in the pool, often referred to as A.T.R.s, are unfairly stigmatized, “There are also A.T.R.s who are A.T.R.s because we have had the choice of whether or not we want to take them. And sometimes those people are not good fits for schools.”

Daniel Weisberg, the chief executive officer of the New Teacher Project, who worked for the education department under former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, said: “We’ve got this group of teachers who either can’t find a job or won’t find a job. That’s the group we’re dealing with.”

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Randy Asher, a senior administrator at the department of education, is behind the initiative to put teachers from the Absent Teacher Reserve back into classrooms full time.

Credit
Caitlin Ochs for The New York Times

Education experts are worried that a disproportionate number of the teachers will be placed in schools in poorer areas, like the South Bronx, which have difficulty attracting and retaining teachers. Some may be placed in schools in the Renewal Schools program, one of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s signature education initiatives, which is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to turn around low-performing schools.

The principal of a high school in Manhattan, who did not want to be named out of fear of reprisal from supervisors in the department, was blunt about the effect: “You’re going to force the worst teachers in the system into the schools that are struggling the most.”

But the city described the plan as a “common-sense solution” to the problems of both vacancies and the cost of paying unassigned teachers.

“My role is to drive down the A.T.R. and to help take these resources and put them back in schools,” said Randy Asher, the senior adviser to the chancellor for talent management and innovation, and the former principal of Brooklyn Technical High School.

The number of teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve increased dramatically after the deal made in 2005 by the Bloomberg administration, which was seeking to close failing schools, and the United Federation of Teachers. Before then, teachers with seniority could claim whatever job…

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