News stories

Big win for school secretaries: New hiring process begun

Cara Metz

The UFT and the Department of Education collaboratively developed the new process for hiring school secretaries.

A long drought in the hiring of school secretaries is over.

Thanks to a new hiring policy jointly developed by the UFT and the Department of Education, schools can now hire qualified people for the demanding job of school secretary.

The new hiring procedure announced in October formally does away with an old DOE requirement that secretaries pass a test that covered shorthand, which today’s secretaries no longer use. The DOE has not given the test since 2009, but in the intervening five years, no other hiring policy had replaced the test requirement.

Now, the qualifications for school secretary are based on education and experience.

“This is an important step for our schools and our school secretaries,” said Mona Gonzalez, the school secretaries chapter leader. “It brings to a close a long period of confusion about how schools could fill their need for qualified secretaries.”

Even before the DOE stopped giving the secretary test, it had already cut back on secretarial positions. From 2008 to 2013, the number of school secretaries at city schools fell by 17 percent, despite the fact that over the same period the number of schools in the city grew.

Some schools tried to fill the need by assigning secretarial responsibilities to out-of-license workers. But the UFT in 2008 won an arbitration decision, and the DOE was ordered to “cease and desist” from assigning the duties of secretaries to unlicensed personnel.

Laura Tamburo, a UFT special representative and the staff liaison to the school secretaries’ chapter, said the new hiring policy abides by that arbitration finding. She said it recognizes that school secretaries fulfill a crucial and often sensitive role at schools, including in the handling of confidential records, and it gives principals a clear path for hiring qualified and experienced people to do that work.

Under the new process, an applicant can be hired as a full-time regular substitute secretary if he or she has at least a high school diploma or its equivalent plus three years of approved experience in an office, clerical or secretarial position.

To be appointed as a secretary, the requirements are higher: either a bachelor’s degree plus one year of paid clerical or secretarial experience or an associate’s degree plus two years of paid clerical or secretarial experience.

The new policy also gives any out-of-license personnel who may have been improperly assigned secretarial duties a path toward becoming licensed if they meet the new education and experience requirements.

Secretaries will not acquire tenure until all probationary and eligibility requirements have been met, Tamburo said.

For an applicant to be considered, principals must nominate a qualified applicant in Galaxy based on a clear, budgeted vacancy. For the initial round of hiring, the nomination process began Oct. 21 and extends through Nov. 21.

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