Don’t Forget Our Probationary Teachers

Just recently many UFT retired members led by New Action joined with thousands of other retired members from other Unions to lead protests and support lawsuits to Protect our Healthcare. In the last week a New York City Supreme Court Judge ruled in favor of the NYC Organization of Municipal Retirees to prevent the City along with the Municipal Labor Committee (MLC) to take away our Original Medicare and put all Retirees in Medicare Advantage. Also, active members, except occupational and physical therapists, ratified a new Contract. The OTPT contract dispute is still going on. But, the issue of discontinued Probationary teachers has not been addressed in a number of years by the UFT leadership.

Over 9 years ago there was a meeting with Deputy Chancellor Laura Fehoo. The meeting included the Secretary of the UFT, John Halabi (then, New Action member on UFT Executive Board), and myself. We brought up the issue of discontinued UFT members being prevented from working in other schools and what could be done to give them a fair shake. Many of these teachers were in schools with questionable Principals. No improvements have been done in the years since.

At the UFT Executive Board we have something called the “Open Mike” where any UFT member is given a few minutes to speak. These Discontinued members were never given this opportunity because some Union Officials have said they are no longer UFT members. The issue should be reopened.

The U.S. Marines have a saying “ No Marine should be left behind. Let’s make sure that no teacher is left behind by our Union and denied their rights.

Submitted by Gregory Di Stefano


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    Howard Siegel

    If I’m not mistaken the egregious clause ” a probationary teacher can be fired for Any or No reason” is a NY State statute and not part of the NYC teachers ‘ labor contract. If this is the case, it would seem that this could be challenged legally. A disinterested UFT and a con artist as UFT President precludes this at present.
    Research into this and actually caring about this should be front and center.
    Just spend a few minutes with any rookie teacher who has been discontinued with zero explanation by their principal. It has ruined lives and careers.

    • BaconUFT

      We need to be lobbying for pro-teacher reforms on obtaining tenure and creating/reserving rights for probationary teachers. When I asked if UFT had data on how bad the numbers were this year in terms of extensions/denials, UFT leadership informed me they didn’t have the data. I never got an update that they’d acquired it.

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    Roberta Pikser

    I worked in Adult Education for over 20 years. Sixteen of those years I was classified as a permanent sub, because, as the job required 16 hour days, morning and night, (pay was only for 6 class hours) I could never find the energy to get the 30 hour schedule necessary to apply for tenure. I never had a bad rating. In fact, my ratings were generally excellent.
    Then, in 2017, I was given a U end of year rating by a supervisor with no experience in adult education. Other teachers over the age of 40 also received U ratings from their various principals that year. The union rep did not pursue this, to us, obvious attack against a protected class. In my case, though, the situation was worse, as I had no tenure. A few weeks later, I received an unsigned email stating I would have no employment the following year. I appealed and lost. In 2022, out of the blue, I received a notice that my case had come up for review. The UFT did provide me with an advocate who, I believe, did her best. We had a preliminary hearing and all seemed to be going well. Then the hearing officer was changed and this time the officer was plainly uninterested in any information that we put forward, such as the letters of the adult students, students who knew what they needed in a teacher and a class, that they found my teaching more than satisfactory. Both the advocate and I knew we had lost. We never learned why the hearing officer had been changed.
    A few days ago, in August of 2023, six years after the fact, I received formal notice that my U rating for “poor professional performance” had been upheld.
    Fortunately, I had not been holding my breath for six years. But the time lapse alone must cause one to ask what the DOE has been doing all this time. Is my experience merely evidence of incompetence? Why bother?
    One final note: Our program, The Office of Adult and Continuing Education has been all but decimated. Almost all of the experienced teachers have been driven out. The needs of adult students, the needs of adult second language learners, which are very different from the needs of younger students, are being ignored. Is this the way in which we want to serve our population?

    • BaconUFT

      This is unacceptable, but unsurprising. Rights for probationary educators need to be improved. Working 20 years and not having any job protections is unacceptable, and clearly is not the spirit of the rationale for tenure. Moreover, Adult and Continuing Education is critical and needs to be made more-not less-robust.

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