NEW YORK CITY — More than 3,600 teachers, administrators and other staffers at 24 schools the city plans to close — then immediately reopen this fall — received pink slips this week.
The letters were sent to each and every staff member at the two dozen struggling schools targeted by Mayor Michael Bloomberg as "turnaround schools" — part of a dramatic overhaul that could make them eligible for federal funding.
The 2,995 teachers, 179 principals and administrators and 497 school aides can reapply for jobs at the new schools that are opening in their old buildings, but there is no guarantee that more than half of senior teachers will be offered spots.
"As a result of the closing of our school and in compliance with contractual mandates, you have been placed in excess from our school for next year," reads a letter sent by the Department of Education, which also outlined the steps teachers should be taking to try to find new jobs.
The shake-up is designed to make the schools eligible for $50 million in federal School Improvement Grants. The state must approve the city's applications for the federal funds, and a final decision is not expected until June.
The teacher’ union, which is fighting the plan, warned that the city is prohibited from moving forward with staffing decisions, pending the outcome of court-ordered talks. An arbitrator is expected to rule by the end of the month whether the DOE can forge ahead with the firings.
"No final personnel decisions involving these schools can be made until the arbitrator rules on the UFT’s contention that these are ‘sham closings,’” a spokesman for the United Federation of Teachers said.
The mayor dropped the closure-plan bombshell during his State of the City speech in January, after the city and teachers’ union failed to reach a deal on a teacher-evaluation system.
The special federal "turnaround" model, which allows the DOE to skirt union rules, requires that at least half of the teachers be fired as the school closes and reopens under a different name.
Still, city officials have stressed that it will be up to principals to decide how many teachers from each school to re-hire, and have said they are willing to risk the federal money by rehiring more than 50 percent of old teachers at some of the schools, if that's what principals deem best.
Hiring decisions will be made jointly by the principals, the UFT and the DOE. Teachers who aren't rehired will be placed in a reserve pool, where they will continue to be paid.
The DOE has already received applications from more than 7,000 people eager to fill the positions, a spokeswoman said.
The schools set for closure include the High School of Graphic Communication Arts in Hell’s Kitchen, Flushing High School in Queens, John Dewey High School in Brooklyn and Lehman High School in the Bronx.