Posts from Anna Phillips
May 10, 2011
With 4,100 teacher layoffs written into Mayor Bloomberg’s final budget for next year, Department of Education officials are beginning the task of counting their teachers. First, they are freezing the system.
In an email sent to a Manhattan principal today, the school’s network leader announced that the city is freezing all “personnel transactions” immediately. This means that any requests from schools to change a teacher’s seniority history or license area cannot go through. A teacher’s license cannot be switched from art to a science, for example, even if that designation is incorrect.
A spokeswoman for the department said the change allows the DOE to determine the exact size of its labor force and how many teachers are working in each subject area. The freeze will not prevent teachers from transferring from one school to another.
The department does not have a date set for when it will release updated projections of how many teachers each school could close to layoffs. In February, it sent out a list of how many teachers each school would lose, but that list is no longer accurate.
The email from a network leader to a principal:
“Based on the release of the Executive Budget and the potential for staff reductions, the Chancellor has directed that a freeze be implemented on all personnel transactions effective immediately, including requests for license changes and changes to service history affecting seniority. No such requests should be submitted given he need to clearly assess current system information as staff reductions are considered. Please communicate this to information to principals as soon as possible. This notification is also being sent to Network Staff and Superintendents by the Division of Assessment and School Performance.”
May 9, 2011
The city and teachers union still have not reached an agreement on how to overhaul more than 30 struggling schools. But city school officials said that, deal or no deal, they will announce those plans at the end of this week.
Though the original due-date for submitting school improvement plans was today, state education officials granted the city’s request to postpone the deadline to Friday. That leaves the city and teachers union four days to reach an agreement on which of three federal improvement strategies each of the schools should undergo.
Of the 43 schools that are eligible for school improvement grants, but have yet to begin using them, 31 are waiting to be told if they’ll be transformation, turnaround, or restart schools. Under each of these three plans being considered, schools would receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal grant money.
A spokesman for the city’s Department of Education, Jack Zarin-Rosenfeld, said that the city had asked for an extension in part to have more time to negotiate with the union.
Last week, union officials said they were hopeful a deal would be reached by today, but that has not happened. (more…)
May 6, 2011
Though the Kingsbridge Innovative Design Charter School is less than a year old, state education officials have decided they have seen enough of its finances to recommend the school’s closure.
In a letter sent to the charter school’s founder and board earlier this week, state officials wrote that after putting the school on probation and reviewing its finances, they believe it should close at the end of this year. Ever since the school’s delayed opening in September, it has struggled to pay rent and cover the costs of educating its 150 students. According to a report on WNYC, the school laid off 11 teachers it could no longer afford.
Back in April, Julio Cotto, the school’s founder and executive director, told the Wall Street Journal that his school did not deserve to be closed.
“Our financial challenges are similar to those of any charter school moving into a private space in the first year,” he told the paper.
Officials from the New York State Education Department did not agree. In a letter to Cotto and the school’s board, Deputy Commissioner John King and Charter School Office Director Cliff Chuang wrote that they don’t believe the school has proved it can stay afloat financially even through the remainder of this school year. Their letter states: (more…)
May 6, 2011
Mayor Bloomberg reaffirmed his plans to cut 6,000 teaching jobs in his budget address today and said that even if the state restores some funding, he will not promise use it to avoid teacher layoffs.
The budget for 2012 includes 4,100 teacher layoffs and the loss of an additional 2,000 teaching jobs through attrition. These job losses would amount to an eight percent decrease in the size of the teaching force — from 75,000 teachers down to about 69,000.
If the layoffs become a reality — threats in the last two years never bore fruit — it will be the first time since the 1970s that the city has laid off public school teachers. City officials have previously estimated that these layoffs will save the city roughly $300 million.
In his budget presentation today, the mayor blamed cuts to school spending from the city and state for the impending layoffs. In 2002, the city and state each covered roughly 50 percent of the city’s education costs. Next fiscal year, the state will contribute 39 percent and the city will fund the remainder. This year, the city has also lost $850 million in federal stimulus funding for schools. (more…)
May 5, 2011
Days before the deadline to decide how it plans to overhaul low-performing schools, the city is considering going in a new direction.
Over the last year that the city has been deciding which of four federally mandated school improvement strategies to use in these schools, it has only publicly discussed two plans: transformation and turnaround. Both of them call for major changes in school personnel and how schools use time, meaning that both of them have to be negotiated with the teachers union.
But with the deadline for the city to submit its proposal only four days away, and the city yet to reach a deal with the teachers union, the Department of Education is considering a third option.
Known as the “restart” model, the plan involves closing a school and reopening it under new management — either as a charter school or as a district school run by a school management organization (for example, New Visions). Because this plan does not require the city to fire teachers or principals, it can be used without the union’s cooperation.
“We would obviously love an agreement on those two models [transformation and turnaround], but we felt we had to cover our bases and be prepared to do restart,” said DOE spokesman Jack Zarin-Rosenfeld. (more…)
May 4, 2011
New York City’s Department of Education already has contracts with Wireless Generation — a Brooklyn-based education technology company — but the timing of this latest one is bound to cause a stir, fairly or not.
About six months after former Schools Chancellor Joel Klein joined News Corporation and the company bought Wireless Generation, the DOE plans to renew a $4.5 million contract — $1.5 million a year for three years. The document describing the contract says only that it is for “published and copyrighted assessment and testing materials.” A spokesperson for the DOE said a fuller description of the contract was still being written and would not be available until several days before the Panel for Educational Policy meeting on May 18, when the contract will be voted on. She said the city has been using Wireless Generation’s software for seven years and is voting to renew a long-standing contract.
[Update 5/5/11]: Wireless Generation spokeswoman Andrea Reibel said that the contract permits schools to purchase assessment software from the company. The software allows teachers to watch their students as they read or work on math problems and enter their observations into a program on a mobile device that can then sort and analyze the data.
“The $1.5 million is their [the DOE's] estimate of what the expenditure is likely to be so they can provide the Panel for Educational Policy with a sense of how much money we’re talking about,” Reibel said. (more…)
May 4, 2011
Following complaints from parents about this year’s council elections, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer is calling on the city to postpone the elections for a second time.
Calling the process “badly flawed,” Stringer said that a series of mistakes made by the Department of Education’s Office of Family Information and Action had undermined parents’ confidence in the elections for members of the Community Education Councils. In a letter sent to Chancellor Dennis Walcott, Stringer asked that the city redo the elections.
Walcott responded that the elections would take place, as planned, on May 7.
“I cannot stress enough the importance of parent involvement in our schools and the Office for Family Information and Action will take all necessary steps to ensure that all of our parents have an opportunity to cast a vote in the CEC elections by May 7th,” the chancellor said in a statement. (more…)
May 3, 2011
Teachers and parents at the city’s second-biggest school say they’re worried that teacher layoffs could undercut the city’s promise to shrink enrollment.
Now-famous for its 14 period days and classrooms that are right at — and sometimes right over — class size limits, Francis Lewis High School enrollment could fall below 4,000 next year. Following an agreement reached last year between the Department of Education’s Office of Student Enrollment and the school’s leadership, Francis Lewis’s enrollment fell by 200 students last year and is poised to drop by another 200 next year to roughly 3,980 students, according to a source at the school.
With fewer students, the high school will be able to move to a 10 period day next year, though it will still have to use trailers as classrooms for some of its students.
Last Friday, some parents and teachers at the school held a rally to tell city officials that even with the agreement in place, they’re worried Francis Lewis could backslide. (more…)
May 2, 2011
After being criticized by parents for bungling the roll-out of parent council elections, the Department of Education is taking heat again for making parents jump through hoops to vote.
For the first time, the website where parents go to vote for candidates in their district is password protected. Although the city sent passwords home in elementary and middle school students’ backpacks, some parents who have children in high school said they never got the information. Without it, they can’t cast their votes in the Community Education Council elections and, if they’re running for a seat on the council, they can’t see who their opponents are.
A Department of Education official said the department’s Office of Family Information and Action decided to put the list of candidates’ names and profiles behind a password for privacy reasons.
President of the Community Education Council in District 1, Lisa Donlan, said she and other parents have not been able to log-on. Although she is running for office Donlan, whose son is in high school, said she can’t access the list of 12 candidates running in her district. (more…)
April 29, 2011
Three more schools will begin closing next year, following a vote by the citywide school board last night that brought the total of schools closed this year to 27.
Members of the Panel for Educational Policy voted to close two transfer schools — Pacific High School and the Bronx Academy High School — as well as P.S. 30, an elementary school in Queens. A spokeswoman for the city’s Department of education said that, including the decision to shutter Ross Global Charter School, 27 schools will begin closing next year.
It was Chancellor Dennis Walcott’s first panel meeting since Mayor Bloomberg named him to the post. Walcott said he hoped to change the tenor of the meetings by answering parents’ questions and publicly debating policy issues at a deeper level than his predecessors did.
Walcott began the meeting by walking down from the stage and into the crowd, where he promised parents, teachers, and students that he and his staff would respect them.
“You will never hear me be disagreeable with you,” he said. “The one thing we understand is these are emotional issues for you…the approach we’re going to take moving forward is be responsive to those issues even when we don’t agree.”
If audience members heard Walcott’s plea for civility, they betrayed no signs. The boos and catcalls that have peppered panel meetings for months reappeared last night, as did animosity between charter school supporters and the district schools they will have to share space with next year. (more…)