Recruitment Fair Attracts City Teachers Looking for Work

The Department of Education said between 75 and 100 schools were represented at a recruitment fair held at the Brooklyn Museum on Tuesday. Teachers looking for work in New York City attended the fair.

Job-seekers were welcomed by greeters from the Teacher Hiring Support Center as they entered the air-conditioned Brooklyn Museum on a stifling hot afternoon. Many wore jackets and office-casual attire. They were led upstairs in shifts to meet with school representatives. Palm cards urged them to "be flexible" by exploring schools all over the city.

Despite a hiring freeze, the city still needs new special education and bilingual teachers. Twenty-four-year-old Megan Whoolery hopes to land a special education job, but she knows it may be harder this year because of budget cuts.

"I'm worried enough that I'm being pretty aggressive with my job search, but I think I'll be okay," she said.

Whoolery believes the city has a good track record placing teaching fellows like herself, who take classes towards a Masters degree while working as teachers.

But most of those looking for work on Tuesday were 'excessed' teachers who lost their positions but remain on the payroll. Some were cut by their principals for budget reasons; others taught at schools that were closed for poor performance. With 2,600 teachers expected to retire this year, they are hoping to land new jobs at schools with vacancies.

Donna Karen is a veteran teacher whose Brooklyn elementary school just closed. She said she was 'excessed' once before, when she was a relatively new teacher, lower down on the totem pole.

"This is more difficult," she explained. "At this point in my career I didn't expect to be looking for a job. I expected to be secure."

Still, as a special education teacher she thought she could find something. And she said the city would compensate any school that hired her by helping to pay her more expensive, senior salary.

But not all teachers were so confident Tuesday. Those who don't find permanent jobs remain on the payroll and work as substitutes in what's called the Absent Teacher Reserve, or ATR pool. A few teachers who said they've been subbing for several years said that schools didn't want to hire them permanently because of their expensive salaries, or that there weren't enough positions available in their license areas. A high school business teacher who's been in the ATR pool for three years says she's now studying to get certified in English, in the hopes of making herself more employable.

That's why she gets upset when the mayor suggests putting a time limit on the ATR pool, suggesting teachers who aren't snapped up right away must not be very good. "We're treated like we're worthless," she said. "I love teaching." She didn't want to give her name because she was afraid of jeopardizing her chances of getting a new job.

Four more recruitment fairs are scheduled this summer. And principals have until July 22 to submit their final budgets. There's also typically a rush of hiring at the end of August and in early September as schools figure out whether they will have as many students as they expect.