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Appointment and New York City licensure
When you are permanently hired to fill a vacancy, you are “appointed” to that position. Your appointment must match your state certification by both subject and level. As part of this appointment process, the DOE automatically generates its own teaching license. This New York City license must match your New York State certificate subject area and, in addition, the grade level of your NYC teaching assignment.
The NYC license specifies the area in which you will be considered for tenure decisions and accrue seniority; the latter can be very important if there is excessing in your school. While there are no more New York City paper licenses, there are still license/appointment areas, each with a different code.
When you begin teaching, the DOE notifies you by personal email of your license/appointment area and includes the license code. Make sure you are appointed in the subject area and division level (i.e. elementary, middle or high school) that matches your state certification.
You can only be appointed in an area that matches your state certificate. It can be a little confusing, however, as New York State certification often includes different grade ranges than those of a New York City license. For example, a New York State English or math or social studies certificate will state it is appropriate for grades 7-12 (middle and high schools). A New York City license can sometimes differentiate between high school and middle school, depending on your appointment.
Unfortunately, “out of license” teaching assignments are not unusual. Since some teaching positions are harder to fill than others, newer teachers are often assigned to teach out of their license areas, in a different level, subject area or both. While such “out of license” assignments don’t affect your salary, they could affect your ability to attain tenure and your right to keep your position if excessing occurs. Teachers who have taught “out of license” could find their probation period extended if the principal or superintendent thinks there is not enough experience in, or evidence of effectiveness in, the appointed license area.
You can be appointed under only one license at a time (even if you have multiple certifications), and your license area of appointment determines the area in which you will be granted tenure. Sometimes your certification permits you to be appointed under another license; however, if you agree to switch to a new appointment, you are on probation again.
In addition, if you switch to another license you must serve probation in that license, and there may be other ramifications. Contact your UFT borough office before you switch your license. In any case, your salary does not change when your license changes. Be sure to check with your payroll secretary that your appointment date is correctly entered in the computer.
If you believe your appointment, New York City license, or teaching assignment does not match your state certification, speak to your chapter leader at once. Your chapter leader can help you discuss this with your principal and get your program corrected as soon as possible. Or you can call your UFT borough office immediately and ask to speak to an educational liaison.
The probationary period
State law requires teachers and other staff appointed after July 1, 2015 to serve a four-year probationary period after being appointed to a position. During that time, supervisors are supposed to observe you several times a year and evaluate you in areas including planning and preparation, classroom environment, instruction and professional responsibilities.
Generally, at the end of four years of acceptable service, teachers and other pedagogues will be entitled to due process rights under their contract and under Section 3020-a of the state Education Law, which governs the discipline and dismissal of tenured educators. This is commonly called acquiring tenure, but it is effectively the completion of your probationary period. If the DOE intends to discontinue, that is terminate, your service at any time prior to the completion of your probationary period, you must be given notice.
If you are discontinued, call your UFT borough office, which will assign an advocate to assist you in fighting the termination.
Sometimes a principal will ask you to sign a document stating that you agree to an extension of your probationary period beyond the four years. If this occurs, contact your chapter leader or your UFT borough office immediately so we can arrange for an attorney to review the document in order to protect your rights as a probationary educator.
There are two ways to reduce your probationary period:
- If you worked as a regular substitute in the same license and in the same school level you may be able to reduce the normal four-year probationary period by up to two years. This is called Jarema Credit and you should apply if you think you are eligible. The application form is online at the DOE's website.
- Another way is called “traveling tenure.” If you received tenure in one license area and elect to take an appointment in a new license area or if you were tenured in another school district in New York State, you should apply to have your probationary period reduced by one year.
If you think you are eligible for either of these options, or have any questions, contact your UFT borough office.
Under New York State law, appointed educators achieve tenure after completing a probationary period and fulfilling all requirements for the professional certificate. In New York City, tenure is granted in your license appointment area, which is why it is of utmost importance that your license code match the subject and level in which you are teaching.
Having tenure means you may not be disciplined or terminated without due process. As a tenured member, you have the right to a hearing before an independent arbitrator regarding any charges brought against you. This due process right protects you from being fired for personal, arbitrary or political reasons. As described above, the process for determining whether or not you will get tenure is rigorous, and tenure is not automatic at the end of the probationary period. You must:
- Complete all your state certification and city licensing requirements, file an application and receive professional certification;
- Have a record of acceptable service during your probationary period; and
- Be recommended for tenure by your principal.
The UFT encourages members to be proactive in preparing for their tenure decision.
If your principal has not initiated a meeting about your tenure decision, ask for an appointment to find out where things stand and what is expected of you. Do this even if your tenure decision is a year or two away so you have time on your side.
Here are some steps you can take throughout your probationary period:
- Become familiar with The Danielson Framework for Teaching and the multiple sources of evidence for each factor that principals will use to prepare their tenure recommendations.
- Put together a professional portfolio of your effectiveness as a teacher. Organize your portfolio with a table of contents to separate the various components. Include a cross section of your work but be selective in choosing the materials to include. Add a brief explanation or context for each piece of evidence you include and be sure to show how you differentiate to accommodate children with diverse abilities.
- Every spring, the UFT offers workshops in the borough offices to help teachers prepare for tenure. Check the union newspaper, New York Teacher, and the UFT website for a schedule of tenure workshops.