Yasmeen Khan is a reporter covering education. You can find her stories on the air and on SchoolBook.org, WNYC’s education website.
New York City school teachers are to report to work on Tuesday, but there are still nearly 2,000 who are looking for new assignments while continuing to receive their paychecks. Many of these teachers were let go, or "excessed," by their principals because of budget cuts. Others worked in schools that were closed for poor performance.
The city held another job fair right before the Labor Day weekend at the Armory in Washington Heights to encourage principals to hire these unassigned teachers. In interviews, many teachers said they had spent the summer improving their resumes and practicing their sales pitches.
"There is a general consensus among teachers that in order to get a position, you really have to know somebody," said Justo Soriano, a bi-lingual math teacher and nearly 20-year veteran of the New York City schools.
This was Mr. Soriano's second summer handing out resumes at job fairs. He said he was excessed in 2010 from Brandeis High School, a low-performing school on West 84th Street on the Upper West Side which is in the process of being phased out.
David Post, an elementary school teacher, lost his position in June at P.S. 155 William Paca school on East 117th Street in East Harlem. He left the job fair with interviews lined up, but called the process "demoralizing" and "frustrating."
"I've been a teacher for six years, but now I still have to stand in line to talk to someone who I might be getting a job from."
The Department of Education has not said how many permanent positions are available. Because of a hiring freeze, it was expected that the only new teachers hired would be those licensed in shortage areas such as special education or bilingual education. But there is typically enough turnover for many excessed teachers to find new positions.
That has not occurred yet this year. More than 2,200 teachers were let go from their schools this summer because of budget cuts. That's a smaller number than the teachers unions had feared. Almost half of them had found new positions by the middle of August, according to the Department of Education. But those teachers joined a pool of more than 1,000 educators who were excessed in previous years and are still looking for permanent positions. The Department of Education said that 1,940 teachers remained in the pool as of Aug. 19.
The Education Department offers support to teachers through the Teacher Hiring Support Center. Those teachers who can't find jobs are assigned to work as substitutes.
That is what Alena Radtke Gabriel, an early childhood intervention teacher, says she has done for several years. She said she was excessed from her last permanent position in 2005 as a kindergarten teacher in Manhattan.
"I said a prayer before I went in," said Gabriel outside of the Armory Foundation. She said that going to job fairs is exhausting, and the ongoing search for a permanent position is "terrible."
Still, she said she was trying to remain positive.
"I'm hopeful because I really believe in New York," she said.