Back to School – My First Days as an ATR

After 747 days in exile, I finally step in from a classroom!

ATR- Absent Teacher Reserve – teachers who were excessed from schools due to school closures or because of budget reasons. I do not fall into those categories.

I was going to write about my return to the classroom sooner, but didn’t have time. It’s not like I’m sitting around all day.

Well, my return back to the front of a classroom has been very interesting. The fact that I have a more concretepurpose, albeit a glorified substitute, is bittersweet really. Without advertising the school, I’m going to say that I am lucky to be in a place that helped with the transition back. It’s nice to see a school that is run well and a staff that appears to support each other. It shows me it can still happen, even with this new administration.

I’m not going to give a play by play of every day of the rest of my career, but for the many of you following this crazy saga, I owe an update. Even if I don’t owe it, I’m going to give it anyway. Why Well, because I can. In the front of each room I taught in this week, there was an American flag.

My First Week:

I’ve taught an amazing bunch of elementary school children from kindergarten to 5th grade this past week. My first day I covered for a technology teacher. Every classroom has a Smartboard, projector, printer and Elmo device (a camera that faces thedesk and projects a live image of a page onto the screen). Why my previous “School of Technology” didn’t is beyond me. Especially with all the extra funding. Where did that money go Don’t ask, because you might also be sent to the Rubber Room for two years.

One of the many things that I thoughtwere very impressive was the kindergarten students were learning about cells on a spreadsheet. Stop and think about that for a minute…in Kindergarten!I asked the students how many chooseblue as their favorite color. Then I asked what cell would I enter it in for a graph on thespreadsheet. “umm B…..15. B15 is where you put the number.” AWESOME!!! Hi-Five!

I mostly co-taught with otheramazing teachers. Some students had Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), but I couldn’t tell who they were because they were mainstreamed so well. This should be a model school in my eyes.

Wednesday morning, as I was putting on my tie, I joked with wife “Imagine I have to teach gym.” That’s exactly what I was assigned when I went in. I taught gym class and, in shirt and tie, did the Hokey Pokey and learned to play hopscotch (again). I have more admiration and respect for elementary teachers than before. I’m so tired when I come home. Like a co-worker told me yesterday”…you are always on.” If only the corporate reformers and some media outlets would get off our back. They wouldn’t last a week in a K-5 setting.

I was at this school for only a week. Then, like a nomad, I move on to another school. No learning about thestudents, their specific needs or anything like that….I just move on to the next school carrying my laptop, projector and wit. That is one of my biggest issues with this wrongful ATR status.

Speaking of wrongful ATR status, I filed a grievance with the superintendent, because my ATR status is unwarranted. Teachers are made ATRs when they are excessed or theschool closes. The hearing record is replete with evidence of my teaching capabilities. Although I do my best, traveling around is not the best use of those abilities. See article here: DOE says not so fast: Exiled teacher may not be returning to his old assignment

Imagine, if you will, a heart surgeon who is now circulating around a hospital covering for different doctors. Today they cover for a podiatrist and tomorrow a neurosurgeon. No background knowledge on the patients. Sound efficient Why is this any different “Come on Portelos…anyone can teach 3rd grade.” Not really and not as well as the real elementary teachers. Imagine all these other talented and experienced ATRs that are in the same situation.

More news:

I’m no longer the union leader of IS 49 since I’m off their payroll. Yey! After almost two years of fighting it, they broke policy and won. However, I’m not going anywhere. I’m still a parent and community member. The UFT is not fighting this nor my unwarranted ATR status. I think I’ve bit my lip long enough about the UFT’s actions and inactions throughout this ordeal. I’m drafting a PERB complaint. From my former union leader assisting in the attacks against me to the union not even filing harassment grievances for me…. they left me no choice. HOW TO FILE A PERB COMPLAINT

This is what the arbitrator wrote: ” Although internal union affairs might ordinarily not be germane in a 3020-a proceeding, they are in this case because Dr. Richard Candia then made a number of allegations against Respondent (including Specifications 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 18, 19, 20) which “got the ball rolling.”

More News:

My ban from my community school, IS 49, has been lifted! Executive Director of Employee Relations Katherine Rodi sent me a letter unreassigning me. However look at what transpired after:



To which I replied:


Ms. Rodi,
I assume this letter does not include public events such as PTA meetings and the upcoming F.L.O.E. event May 30th or anything that requires a permit.

Also, please do what you can to enable my DOE email and payroll access that your predecessor, Mr. Gordon, disabled over two years ago.

Thank you.

Francesco Portelos
IS 49 UFT Chapter Leader


To which Ms. Rodireplied:


Mr. Portelos,

Unless you are a parent at the school, I am not clear as to why you will need to attend PTA meetings or other events.

Your email and network access, including your payroll access, has already been restored.

Thank you.


To which I replied:



Ms. Rodi,

With all due respect, you don’t have to be clear on why. If my neighbor, whose child does not attend IS 49, can attend as a member of the public, then so can I.

“Attendance and Participation – PA/PTA meetings must be non-exclusive
and open to thegeneral publicin accordance with NYS Education Law.
PA/PTA members may attend and participate in all general membership
meetings. In addition, individuals who are not members of the PA/PTA
may attend general membership meetings as observers, but may only
participate in discussions with the approval of the executive board. “

I’m sorry, but I hope no one thinks this changes my dedication to IS 49 and that I will put that building in my rear view mirror.

Have a great weekend.


No Response.

On Tuesday, May 13, 2014, I went to the PTA meeting at IS 49. Stayed for over an hour.

IS 49 PTA President Laura Cavalieri and Mr. Portelos

IS 49 PTA President Laura Cavalieri and Mr. Portelos

It was an election meeting, but itnever took place, because there was not a quorum. Not enough parent involvement in the school unfortunately. Maybe it is because anyone who who wants to be involved is turned away by Principal Hill. Laura Cavalieri, an amazing PTA president and advocate for Dyslexia, was even told that she was barred from the school and needed approval to enter. Interesting enough this happened after she testified on my behalf. Also, there is an allegation that Principal Linda Hill attempted to take away a testing modification for Laura’s son before the state test. A complaint has been filed.

Tomorrow, I have to report to 65 Court Street with union representation, because as I said two weeks ago, I am thesubject of another investigation relating to “internet posting.” See:Im Under a NEW Investigation. Yes, Really.

“Just When I Thought I Was Out,They Pull Me Back In!” – The Godfather

Oh and on Twitter, someone posted a secret video of my first day teaching:

About Francesco Portelos

Parent and Educator fighting for the student and the teacher.
Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Welcome back Bro! Glad to hear you are having positive experiences. Saddened and ashamed you weren’t supported by your union. A union supports their members to the end; unconditionalally. Regardless of caucus affiliation or friendships with DOE personnel. I am not claiming to make a judgment in this case. But, knowing you and your commitment to education I cannot imagine you not deserving them going to the mat for you. And when I see Mulgrew with his snark attitude and disrespect toward union dissenters I am not surprised a ditto head Boro office might leave you for dead.

  2. Francesco welcome to the ATR rock star tour. I mentioned your situation in my recent blog posting. It the immortal words of Jerry Garcia “What a long strange trip its been.”

  3. So…as you know…. I’ve been working on “Portelos: The Musical”. But with all these little plot twists, I’m thinking it may work better in serial form….. you know, like a soap opera.

    Anyway, I completed the choreography for Act 1: “The Case Against Portelos”:

    I’ll have the whole thing written and ready to go into production by Fall.

    BTW…. has the union noticed that IS 49 is without representation yet

    Does it matter

  4. Disgusted Teacher

    It seems like they’re setting the system up, with the UFT’s help, to turn as many of us into ATR’s as possible. And firing us shortly after.

    That’s why principals are encouraged to bring any and all false and petty allegations against any teacher. This is why they’re constantly on the phone with “Legal”. They need to find any reason to call OSI/SCI on a teacher.

    As far as the union is concerned, you SHOULD file a PERB complaint. I am thinking of doing the same thing. I have tons of proof they were not doing their jobs. We are wasting our money every month paying them dues. You will need that money for a private attorney.


  5. Josh gutterman

    All teachers should be aware of this! Once you are pulled from your school , You’re NOT going back!!!

  6. Pingback: DOE vs Portelos Termination Verdict Is In 826 Days After They Took Aim to Fire. - Educator Fights Back

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.