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December 8th, 2010
New York teachers still in idle limbo
For her first assignment of the school year, Verona Gill, a $100,000-a-year special education teacher whom the city is trying to fire, sat around education offices in Lower Manhattan for two weeks, waiting to be told what to do, says the New York Times. For her second assignment, she was sent to a district office in the Bronx and told to hand out language exams to anyone who came to pick them up. Few did. Now, Ms. Gill reports to a cubicle in Downtown Brooklyn with a broken computer and waits for it to be fixed. Periodically, her supervisor comes by to tell her she is still working on the problem. It has been this way since Oct. 8.
“I have no projects to do, so I sit there until 2:50 p.m.–that’s six hours and 50 minutes,” the official length of the teacher workday, she said. “And then I swipe out.”
When Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg closed the notorious reassignment centers known as rubber rooms this year, he and the city’s teachers’ union announced triumphantly that one of the most obvious sources of waste in the school system–$30 million a year in salaries being paid to educators caught up in the glacial legal process required to fire them–was no more. No longer would hundreds of teachers accused of wrongdoing or incompetence, like Ms. Gill, clock in and out of trailers or windowless rooms for years, doing nothing more than snoozing or reading newspapers, griping or teaching one another tai chi. Instead, their cases would be sped up, and in the meantime they would be put to work. While hundreds of teachers have had their cases resolved, for many of those still waiting, the definition of “work” has turned out to be a loose one. Some are now doing basic tasks, like light filing, paper-clipping, tracking down student information on a computer or using 25-foot tape measures to determine the dimensions of entire school buildings. Others sit without work in unadorned cubicles or at out-of-the-way conference tables…