UFT Members: How to transfer on Open Market and not end up with an abusive administration

It’s late May and slowly but surely, positions are starting to list on the DOE’s Open Market system. UFT members can use this system to seek out transfer opportunities within the NYC public school system. Teachers who do this keep their pay, seniority, and tenure (as long as they work under the same license under which it was granted.)  Now, I have my criticisms of Open Market. It should not be the UFT’s go to solution for dealing with abusive administration. And, the City’s adaptation of a ‘unit costing’ model makes it very difficult for teachers with more years in the system (i.e. – higher pay) to find principals willing to hire them. New Action and UFC have both called for changes in transfer policy, including bringing back some form of ‘seniority transfers.’ Nevertheless, Open Market as currently constituted is the system we have, so it’s worth discussing how to use it right.

Seeking out schools that are hiring

Using the Open Market transfer plane, you can transfer this year from April 19 to August 8 at 5:00 PM. However, keep in mind that not all schools will post to Open Market right away. There are often budgetary issues that prevent principals from putting up vacancies, even when they know for a fact that they will have them. For that reason, it can be a good move to email principals at schools you know are good fits for you with queries as to whether they are hiring. You may discover that your dream school really does have a position available, that it just isn’t up yet. Just be cautious to accept an offer without a signature. You do hear of schools who thought they were going to be able to hire, but then got bad news on budget or discovered that a teacher whose position was becoming vacant opted not to retire/transfer. In the end: you haven’t actually been accepted to a job until you’ve signed the papers and gotten a confirmation email from the ‘Transfer Plane.’

If you don’t have schools in mind, all you can do is go with the list of schools available. Some teachers make their own crowd-sourced lists, or you can just go with the official list on Open Market. An AP friend of mine used to always say that ‘good schools hire early.’ Of course, less than good schools also hire early, and better schools will still have sudden vacancies in July and August. But it’s true that you can tell a lot about a school from how they administer the hiring process. Take note of how many teachers are involved, and how much power they seem to have in making decisions relative to principals. Look for green and red flags in how principals answer your questions. Keep in mind, however, that hiring often looks very different depending on when you apply for a position. Typically, if you apply early, i.e. when schools are still in session (before Regents for high schools), principals interested in hiring you will ask candidates to come in and do a demonstration or ‘demo lesson.’ Try your best to schedule such demos before/after school, so you don’t have to deal with the anxiety and risk of illicitly taking a day off from work for what is ironically an inter-department transfer. I was once taken out of the running for a job for refusing to do this, but I digress. If you wait until July or early August to apply, it’s doubtful you’ll be asked to jump through so many hoops. Another good friend of mine used to say, ‘wait until the end of summer to apply, when schools are scrambling!’ If you aren’t a fan of demo lessons or second and third interviews, there’s some truth there. Just make sure you are still doing your due diligence.

Research and Data

If you aren’t sure whether a school will be a good fit for you, it’s good idea to do some research. UFT scrapped PINI, which included a list of principals in need of improvement. (New Action is in the process of recreating such a list, but that’s still in the works). So, there’s no official place to see where schools will definitely be a bad fit. But, there is tons of public data out there. Remember those surveys teachers and students take each year? You can use websites like insideschools to see some of the results, or go straight to the source here. One of the most important pieces of data you will find is on whether teachers think the principal is trustworthy or a good manager. If you see bad results here, you might want to pause and do some more research. Keep in mind that there are limitations to this data. Teachers don’t always fill out surveys (leading to extremely small sample sizes). Others, fearing that their answers aren’t anonymous, end up ‘rounding up’ their responses. And of course, if principals have recently left, you may be looking at data from a previous administration – meaning the data is likely useless for your purposes. Keep factors like this in mind as you look at data, but do look at data if you’re seeking to transfer to a school of which you know little to nothing. It could save you a world of trouble.

And remember that there is no substitute for speaking to actual teachers who work at the schools you’re considering. I chose the school I currently work at – a very good fit – based on conversations I had with a diverse group of teachers who work there.

So good luck with your transfer search, New Action members, and if you’re interested in hearing more about our idea to re-create a PINI list, make sure to come to the NAC general meeting on May 30 at 5:30 PM.


  • Avatar
    Mike D.

    I was a teacher when we still had seniority based transfers and many teachers used it. It was fair and simple. Since the creation of the sham open market transfer, many veteran teachers have a very tough time getting out of a school that they do not like. No matter what the UFT may say about paying the “average” salary of a teacher who transfers, the fact is that after a year or two, expensive teachers will effect that schools bottom line. Furthermore, ever since Bloomberg decimated the teaching profession in NYC, most admins prefer newer teachers who are untenured and who have no memory of how things used to be or how our contract needs to be enforced. It is all a power trip. Principals are now considered CEO’s and the business model of running schools has taken over trust and respect of teachers.

    • BaconUFT

      I agree. The old model was principals managing schools for the DOE. They had to play by specific rules that limited their personal authority. Now, principals have so much power over hiring, and so many disincentives from hiring older teachers (pay, tenure) that they usually opt for new teachers. We need to bring back seniority transfers and end unit costing.

  • Avatar
    Howie Siegel

    With regard to transferring, Look Before You Leap.

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