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List of Teacher Layoffs Leaves Schools Reeling

By DNAinfo Staff on February 28, 2011 7:07am  | Updated on February 28, 2011 6:17pm

The Columbia Secondary School would be the hardest hit by the city's proposed cuts.
The Columbia Secondary School would be the hardest hit by the city's proposed cuts.
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DNAinfo/Jill Colvin

By Jill Colvin and Nicole Bode

DNAinfo Staff

MANHATTAN — Parents and teachers were stunned Monday after the city released a list of educators slated to be cut if Albany doesn't come up with more funding or change hiring and firing rules.

The city's current plan to shed more than 4,600 teachers and cut another 1,500 positions through attrition over time could leave some Manhattan schools without a majority of their teaching staff.

Among the hardest-hit is Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science and Engineering in Harlem, where 70 percent of the teaching staff — or 14 of 20 teachers — have landed on the city's doomsday chopping block.

The city released the list to demonstrate what they call the disproportionate effect of the "last in, first out" seniority firing policy, which would slam newer schools, where teachers have been hired the most recently. Schools with more veteran teaching staff would escape cuts almost entirely under the rules, according to the city.

"Right now, there is a law on the books that says merit doesn't matter," DOE spokeswoman Natalie Ravitz said in a statement.

"This arbitrary standard means that some schools will lose up to half of their teachers, just because they have chosen to hire teachers new to the profession," she said.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the numbers "very scary" but defended their release.

"The pubic has a right to know what's going on. We're not trying to scare anybody. I think it's very worrisome and I think people should be worried," he told reporters at a press conference in Brooklyn Monday.

The state Senate is set to vote on a bill to allow the city to fire teachers based on performance.

But United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew, who has vehemently opposed the mayor's attempts to attack seniority rules, dismissed the threats of layoffs as "political maneuvering" used by the mayor to get his way.

"What we are saying is, Mr. Mayor, knock it off. Stop playing games. Stop politically maneuvering for your own reasons and work with the teachers of this great city," Mulgrew said during a press conference Monday morning outside P.S. 126 in Chinatown.


The school is slated to lose 8 of their 80 teachers under the current proposal.

Later, as he stood surrounded by more than 100 teachers at the UFT headquarters downtown, Mulgrew also accused the mayor of trying to divide teachers, and argued that  the city has a $3 billion cushion that could prevent layoffs entirely.

"It was clear to us that it was a stunt to try and create panic and fear amongst teachers and amongst school communities and we are not going to allow that to happen," he said.

 City officials quickly dismissed the number, saying no such cushion exists. Instead, Bloomberg said it would take an additional $1 billion cash infusion to close the current budget deficit and save the teachers' jobs, "if that's the decision we wanted to make."

He also said that the city will have to start sending off pink slips "soon" in expectation of court challenges. He declined to say when those might go out.

Teachers accused the mayor of trying to turn teachers against one another and of placing kids and parents in the middle.

Amy Piller, 25, who is in her fourth year of teaching at the school, would likely be among those eligible for cuts.

"People are really scared. It's terrifying," Piller said.

Barry Greenberg, 41, who has spent his 15 year teaching career at PS 126 and now teaches first grade special ed, said that he was shocked when he found out about the list late last night. He said that he already struggles with 22 students in his class.

"It's not fair to our students. It's not fair to our families here," he said. "The more kids, the harder it is."

Special ed teachers and English as a second language teachers would not be affected by the cuts.

But Greenberg also said he doubts whether the cuts will come through in the end.

"I think this is all grandstanding. He just wants to put up a show," he said of the mayor.

Marquis Harrison, 25, a third-year eighth grade social science teacher at the Frederick Douglass Academy in Harlem said that his kids are already concerned

"Mr, Harrison, will you be leaving us?" he said some of them asked.

"It was like somebody stabbing me in my heart," he said, adding that while layoffs had been threatened before, this time around the threats feel more serious.

Among Manhattan neighborhoods, District 1 schools in the Lower East Side and the East Village are going to be the hardest hit overall, losing a projected 10 percent of their elementary, middle and high school teachers, according to statistics released by the Education Department.

District 2, which covers the Upper East Side, Chinatown, Gramercy, Murray Hill, Midtown West, TriBeCa, Greenwich Village, and the Flatiron is set to lose 9 percent of their teachers, including 13 percent of their elementary school teachers, the DOE projected.

District 3's schools in West Harlem and the Upper West Side would lose 8 percent of their teachers overall, as would District 5 schools in West and Central Harlem.

East Harlem's District 4 would lose 9 percent of overall teachers, including 15 percent of their intermediate school teachers. Of those schools, the Esperanza Preparatory Academy is on deck to be the hardest hit, losing 42 percent of staff, or 11 out of 26 teachers.

District 5 stands to lose the highest proportion of intermediate school teachers in the borough, with a projected 19 percent of teachers on the chopping block.

Schools in District 6's Washington Heights, Inwood and Hamilton Heights are set to shed six percent of their teachers overall. District 6's High School for Excellence and Innovation is expected to lose 50 percent of their teachers, or six out of 12, the stats show.

And in District 2, the Spruce Street School for early childhood education could also lose half their staff, with three of the six staffers slated to get the ax.

A Harlem mom whose children are in Pre-K and fifth grade at the Columbia Secondary School had not heard the news when she was approached by a reporter Monday morning, and began to cry after being told of the possible cuts.

"This is really hard to process," said the mom, who did not give her name, "Fourteen teachers? We're already a small school as it is. How do we allow this to happen? It's really unfair to the children."

For a full list of the schools, click here.

Ben Fractenberg contributed reporting.

The Columbia Secondary School, whose sixth grade student Nicole Suriel drowned on a field trip to the beach, would be the hardest hit by the city's proposed cuts.
The Columbia Secondary School, whose sixth grade student Nicole Suriel drowned on a field trip to the beach, would be the hardest hit by the city's proposed cuts.
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DNAinfo/Simone Sebastian