A New York Public Schools teacher has what many of us would consider a dream job: he gets paid $94,000 per year to literally do nothing. He hangs out in the library, reads, and takes naps.
But David Suker isn’t taking his fate “lying down,” so to speak. As theT New York Post reports, he’s suing to force the school district to give him something meaningful to do.
“I come to work every day, sit down and do nothing.”
Suker exists in a sort of Teachers’ purgatory filled with educators, like himself, whom NY Public Schools tried, but failed, to fire. Now the school system wants nothing to do with them. Though a court or arbitrator has ruled that they have to keep their jobs, that doesn’t mean they’re going to be allowed to teach. Rather, Suker says he and teachers like him are essentially “warehoused,” spending most of their days doing nothing, doing menial “grunt work” like serving in the cafeteria, or on rare occasions, substitute teaching in subjects outside of their area of expertise.
The system that has put Suker into a position of being able to nap all day at work even has a name: the Absent Teacher Reserve, or ATR. Officially, the ATR was designed for teachers, guidance counselors, or other faculty and staff who have been “excessed” — that is, their jobs were eliminated due to school closings or consolidations. Excessed teachers are put into a pool of substitute teachers, allowing them to continue to draw full pay and benefits. About 1,300 teachers are in the ATR, at a cost of about $100 million to the city each year.
However, the ATR is also the unofficial dumping ground for teachers who were either fired but then got their jobs back through legal action, or teachers whom the district wasn’t able to fire. Wanting nothing to do with them, but unable to fire them, the New York Public School system essentially treats them as ghosts, bringing them to work each day and then ignoring them. As many as 200 teachers who have been disciplined for misconduct or incompetence are currently in the ATR.
So how did David Suker wind up in the ATR?
By all rights, Suker had been a good teacher for the first 15 years of his career. The Army veteran spent those years working in tough neighborhoods in The Bronx, helping “at risk” teenagers get their GEDs.
Then he got into some trouble with the law. During the Occupy Wall Street protests, Suker tussled with a cop and wound up facing criminal charges. The Department of Education fired him, but he appealed his firing in court and got his job back. Now his former employer wants nothing to do with him, but can’t fire him. So he sits at the library all day, reading and napping.
You would think that being able to read and nap all day would be a cushy job, but Suker says the stress is getting to him. Last week he got into an altercation with a principal’s secretary and wound up having a panic attack, causing him to be rushed to the emergency room. The following Friday, he was back in the library, taking a nap.
Suker has sued the Department of Education in Manhattan Supreme Court, saying that the Department does not have the right to perpetually punish him, and teachers like him, by relegating them to meaningless “jobs” such as sleeping all day.
“The DOE is not legally permitted to discipline tenured teachers without giving them the right to a hearing.”
The prospects, however, don’t look good for Suker: the judge will hear his case has already decided against other teachers in the same situation, and they, like Suker, continue to be brought into work each day, only to have no work to do and spend the day reading and napping.
[Featured Image by ESB Professional/Shutterstock]