By JOSEPH MODICA
Furious parents came out en masse on the steps of City Hall Thursday morning under rain and wind to give Mayor Bill de Blasio one message: we don’t want rubber room teachers!
An advocacy group made up of parents and community leaders called StudentsFirstNY voiced their complaints about de Blasio’s bringing back 400 teachers who were taken out of their daily teaching positions and placed into rooms to await hearings or for new positions, referred to as “rubber rooms.” Many of these teachers were placed there because of disciplinary problems, poor teaching records, or simply because they found themselves jobless after their schools closed.
Teachers who were rubber-roomed previously cost the city between $15 to $20 million and the recent move to redeploy them was designed to buttress the Department of Education budget. Teachers affected by this have little say where they will be placed, and principals will not be able to choose whom to hire as they did previously.
“We’re looking for qualified teachers, were looking for teachers doing the right thing.” said Gloria Alfinez, a Bronx parent said. “Get them either a severance pay or a nice ticket that says ba-bye.”
However, firing teachers is not as easy as that.
In 2005, former mayor Michael Bloomberg gave principals more flexibility to remove teachers from classrooms with a deal struck between him and the United Federation of Teachers during the mayor’s first term in office. Removed teachers were not fired however, but rather moved into a pool called the Absent Teacher Reserve. These teachers wait sometimes years for an available position, acting as a substitute teacher, but often made to sit in a room doing nothing. This has left de Blasio in a tight-spot, as teachers could not be fired, but not be allowed to continue to receive a full salary pay.
A DOE representative said in an email that the new policy is meant to better use the pool of teachers for a school’s needs and ensures parents that, “we simply won’t match any [Absent Teacher Reserve] teacher to a year-long vacancy if we have any concerns about their work history or performance.”
Cynthia Tibbs, a Manhattan parent, was not convinced and said that such teachers should not be placed in a “rubber room,” but not put back to teaching positions either. “Putting them back in a children’s environment is not conducive to children or anyone else.”
Photo by Joseph Modica