When you want to transfer schools, the first thing I'd do is RESEARCH!!!! You don't want to end up at another school like the one you're leaving. Read about the schools from the DOE website statistics, some schools actually have their own website (I know, gasp!) that you can peruse, insideschools.com can give you a feel for the atmosphere, and google maps street view can show you the actual building and surroundings. If you have friends or contacts, contact them and ask questions. Make a list of potential schools you want to apply to.
The second thing you should do is register with the Open Market System (it is open now! but no vacancies are listed). I do it every year, even though each year I have decided to stay at my school in the end. Some people are afraid that their principal will find out because principals can apparently view who is registered (not sure if that is true or if they can only view who applied to their school). In each year that I registered, no one at my school asked me anything, so I think they didn't know. Using the system, you can send a resume and cover letter to the schools with vacancies that you choose.
Next, you need to visit these schools and make personal contacts. If you know someone who works at a school you'd like to apply to, get invited. Either "stop by" on your way back from an "appointment" in the neighborhood or your "lunch hour" (which we all know is code word for "I called in sick so I could drop off my resume to as many schools as possible") or arrange a formal visit. Make sure your resume and cover letter are printed on nice paper and that your cover letter is specific to each school. Some people are shy about dropping off resumes. My advice is to ASK TO SEE THE PRINCIPAL. If the secretary says "I can take it," thank him/her and ask politely if the principal might be available for just a minute, you'd really like to meet him/her. It is very important to get face time. When I was first applying to schools 5 years ago, I got calls from 4 out of the 5 principals I met face-to-face. One even interviewed me on the spot.
Hopefully you will get an interview. When they ask you, "Why are you leaving your current school?", DO NOT tell the truth.... well not entirely. Don't lie either. You do not want to speak badly about your school or your administration. Think of a nicer way to say everything emphasizing what you are looking for in a new job. Say things like, "I'm really looking for a school where I can work in collaboration with my colleagues," or "I loved teaching at my school, but I'm looking for a school with a more progressive view of education," etc. or "I'm looking for a school that uses balanced literacy." Also, don't say your looking for somewhere closer to home, it makes you sound lazy. Say something like "I've lived in the community for years, and I feel a strong committment to working with the children and families in the area." I've sat on so many hiring committees where people use that question to vent about all that is wrong with the system and it does not bode well for them.
For all of you new teachers, I understand from my very talented student teacher that the hiring freeze is still in full effect. For those of you outside of the system, the hiring freeze means that New York City will not hire new teachers (teachers not already in the system) to work in public schools. They can only apply to new schools in the system (mostly charter). New teachers can use this same advice to apply to new schools or schools outside of the system. There are many districts that need your talent and energy (Yonkers, Newark, etc.). For all you veteran teachers like myself, this year might be a great year for a transfer given the freeze. You will not be competing with more energetic, more up-to-date, and cheaper-to-pay young graduates.
Good luck to you all!!!! I really hope my advice works for me too. I'm feeling hopeful the more research I do. I'm keeping an open mind and really looking for a school that has a vision and a dedication to its population of students.