Posts tagged "Panel for Educational Policy"
April 26, 2012
We’re stationed right now at the Prospect Heights Campus in Brooklyn, where the Panel for Educational Policy is set to vote tonight on two dozen school closure proposals.
It’s not the usual venue for a contentious panel meeting — the longest meetings have all been held at Brooklyn Technical High School — but the closures are also not the usual type.
Instead of phasing out the schools and slowly opening new ones, the city is proposing to close the schools at the end of the year and reopen them immediately according to a federally prescribed school improvement strategy known as “turnaround.” Under the city’s proposals, which have elicited intense opposition, the schools would get new names, new teachers, and, often, new principals.
For an overview of the controversial policy at the heart of tonight’s meeting, check out our two-part primer. And stay tuned for up-to-the-minute coverage of the panel meeting, which Chancellor Dennis Walcott warned earlier today could go late into the night.
11:58 p.m. And it’s over: All of the turnaround closure votes are done and have passed. Between February and today, the panel has approved 44 school closures to begin or take place this summer — far more than in any previous year.
The panel still has to vote on 17 proposals about school space usage, 10 involving charter schools. They are proceeding quickly through the votes.
11:54 p.m. A teacher from John Dewey High School has broken out in tears behind reporters.
According to the thin crowd of teachers who shout the tally after each vote, those who vote yes are “puppets” and those who cast no votes are “heroes.”
11:48 p.m. Eight to four is the pattern of the night. The seven mayoral appointees who are present tonight are voting for each turnaround plan, as is the Staten Island borough president’s appointee, Diane Peruggia. The four other borough presidents’ appointees are voting against each proposal, in a reprise of the vote count from school closure hearings in February and last year.
One teacher has taken to shouting, “Let’s count … is it eight?” each time a vote is tallied. Other audience members are joining in the chorus.
11:46 p.m. The voting has begun. The panel members dispatch with Queens representative Dmytro Fedkowskyj’s resolution against turnaround quickly, voting 8-4 against it. (more…)
April 26, 2012
When the Panel for Educational Policy meets tonight to consider dozens of proposals for school “turnaround,” two high schools with a host of a heavyweight supporters won’t be on the agenda.
Bushwick Community High School and Grover Cleveland High School were among 26 schools that the department had proposed to close and reopen — with new names and new teachers — in an attempt to win federal school reform funds.
Department officials had said the schools needed radical interventions to help them improve. But today the officials said they had determined after listening to public comment and reviewing performance data that Bushwick and Cleveland didn’t need major changes after all.
The schools “have demonstrated an ability to continue their improvements without the more comprehensive actions that are clearly needed at 24 other schools,” said Chancellor Dennis Walcott in a statement.
The about-face comes weeks after the department yanked seven top-rated schools from the turnaround list and just hours before the panel’s scheduled vote. It also comes after the schools received intense political and community support and, in the case of Bushwick, media attention. (more…)
April 11, 2012
When members of the Panel for Educational Policy vote on more than two dozen school closure proposals later this month, they won’t know whether the city will get federal dollars to fund the schools that replace them.
Speaking to state lawmakers today, Education Commissioner John King said he does not plan to respond to the city’s applications for federal School Improvement Grants until “early June” — well over a month after the PEP is scheduled to vote on closure plans for 26 schools. The panel has never rejected a city proposal.
The closures are part of an overhaul process known as “turnaround” that the city devised in large part to win the funds. When Mayor Bloomberg announced the turnaround plans in his State of the City speech in January, he cited the availability of the federal funds — about $2 million per school each year — as a key motivator.
But lately, the city’s rhetoric has changed. When the Department of Education published details about its school closure plans last month, it explained that the turnarounds would happen with or without the federal dollars. Deputy Chancellor Marc Sternberg also told GothamSchools that new principals wouldn’t have to replace half of their staffs when the schools reopened, a provision that could disqualify the schools from receiving SIG grants.
Walcott told reporters at the hearing today that closure was the best move forward for the 26 low-rated schools with or without the supplemental grants. The schools are eligible for more than $150 million over a three-year period, but Walcott said the city’s plans could be implemented without the extra funding.
“If we have the money, that’s great,” he said. “But money should not drive policy. The policy should be, how do we benefit the students in the long run, and that’s my overall goal.” (more…)
April 2, 2012
Standing beside a dozen elected officials this morning, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall recalled the anxiety in the voices of the many Queens students, teachers and school leaders who have implored her to help them fight city plans to close their schools this year.
“When they came to us, I heard children cry, ‘What am I going to do?’” Marshall said at a press conference denouncing the city’s plans to “turn around” 33 schools, including eight Queens schools. “They love their schools, they want to stay in their schools. They love learning in their schools. I stand hand in hand here with the children. They do not want this.”
Marshall convened the press conference just hours before Queens’ first public hearing about turnaround, the controversial process the city has proposed for 33 struggling schools. But the event was far from Marshall’s first public statement on the plans, which would require the schools to close and reopen with a new name and many new teachers.
She also held a hearing at Queens Borough Hall about the proposals in February, where she unveiled an uncharacteristically aggressive stance against the Department of Education. The shift makes sense: For the previous decade, Queens has seen relatively few of its schools shuttered for poor performance, and of the 23 schools whose closures or truncations were approved in February, only one was in the borough. But the borough is home to a full quarter of the schools proposed for turnaround. (more…)
March 22, 2012
More than 60 parents, teachers and students trekked to Chelsea last night to beg Panel for Educational Policy members to reject a slate of space-sharing proposals.
As usual, the panel approved all of the proposals — but when it came time to vote on a series of contracts later in the evening, three were tabled unexpectedly after several members said they could not cast impartial votes.
Three panel members who were appointed by Mayor Bloomberg said their ties to the City University of New York were too close to allow them to vote on contracts relating to CUNY. After they recused themselves, an unusual occurrence, four panel members who comprise a consistent opposition block also said they would not cast votes on the contract, making it impossible for the contracts to get enough votes to pass.
The panel did approve a $20 million, three-year contract for six nonprofit groups that have been working since last summer in 14 schools that were supposed to get money from the federal government through the School Improvement Grant program. That money did not materialize after the city and teachers union were unable to agree on new teacher evaluations.
Now the city plans to ask the state to restore the funds when it submits applications for “turnaround” at the schools — but the restoration wouldn’t happen until next year. The panel members okayed a $6.5 million payment for the partnerships for this year. The contracts will be canceled next year if the state does not restore the federal funds at the schools, according to a Department of Education spokesman.
The turnaround plans are not on the agenda until next month’s panel meeting, but they came up again and again on Wednesday evening. Several of the proposed co-locations were set for schools that could be closed and reopened under the turnaround program, drawing criticism from parents and students who attended the meeting. (more…)
March 21, 2012
Fifty different schools would be affected by the 18 proposals before the citywide school board tonight.
The Panel for Educational Policy is set to vote on 18 proposals to change how school buildings are used next year. All but one of the plans would introduce co-locations between multiple schools. Eight of the co-location plans involve charter schools and half a dozen involve schools that are set to or proposed to close next year.
A couple of the co-location plans have drawn criticism. Some elected officials in District 1 are upset that Manhattan Charter School II is aiming for public space after school leaders initially said they were hoping to secure private space. In the Bronx, students at two transfer high schools have been protesting the proposed arrival of a third transfer high school, a charter school originally conceived by the city’s former alternative schools superintendent. And the city’s plan to move some grades of a Harlem Success Academy charter school into District 3 has parents there worried about potential impact on area schools.
The panel is also set to consider 14 contract proposals. One of them is for a three-year, $20 million contract with seven nonprofit groups that have been working since last summer in the 14 schools that had been assigned to the federal “restart” model. Those schools had been receiving federal School Improvement Grants to pay for the partnerships, but the state suspended the grants earlier this year after the city and teachers union failed to agree on new teacher evaluations.
The Department of Education has said it would maintain the partnerships on its own and is now asking the panel to approve $6.5 million in public funds to pay for the year. The contract proposal stipulates that federal funds would support the partnerships in the remaining two years, indicating that the city is confident that it will receive state approval for its “turnaround” plans. Those plans dominate the agenda of the next panel meeting, set for April 26.
Rachel will be sending Twitter updates all evening from the meeting at Manhattan’s Fashion Industries High School. View an archive of the tweets below. (more…)
March 2, 2012
After hearing nearly two hours of public testimony in support of a charter school slated for Williamsburg, a member of the Panel for Educational Policy said she worried charter school supporters’ voices were being drowned out.
Lisette Nieves, a mayoral appointee to the citywide school board, defended her plan to vote in favor of the school’s co-location proposal against the suggestion that vocal community opposition to the plan should sway panel members’ votes.
“Even in our last meeting we had about a third who were in support of seeing change … so when I keep hearing that there’s only one large group feeling one way, I know there’s dissent that’s not allowed to speak,” Nieves said. “I can vote with complete confidence to support the co-location because at the end of the day I know that I am too impatient and will not accept that young people who look like me … to be in a school that’s not high quality.”
About 100 parents and students who attend schools in the Success Charter Network came to the panel meeting to advocate for the network’s plans to open a new school inside Williamsburg’s M.S. 50. That plan has drawn vocal opposition, particularly among the neighborhood’s Spanish-speaking community, that has included both a guerrilla sticker campaign and a lawsuit.
The plan also drew a spirited protest outside the panel meeting.
“We are boycotting the meeting! It is a puppet panel!” declared a ring of protesters organized by the advocacy group Southside Community Schools Coalition during a rally outside Brooklyn Technical High School, where the panel was meeting. The protesters were referring to the fact that the PEP has never rejected a city proposal. (more…)
March 1, 2012
On the agenda of the Panel for Educational Policy tonight: changes to schools in six buildings in three boroughs, the city’s plan for school construction, and regulations about how students are admitted to schools.
The meeting — one of two set for March — is sure to be mild compared to the last one, when the panel approved 18 school closures and plans to shrink five other schools after a contentious meeting that lasted until nearly midnight. But that’s not to say that there isn’t likely to fierce debate tonight, too. The panel is set to vote on a proposal open a Success Charter school inside the M.S. 50 building in Williamsburg, and some neighborhood parents are very upset about the plan.
The parents — who today filed suit over the network’s efforts to engage the largely Spanish-speaking community, which they charge was lackluster — are holding a 5 p.m. protest against the co-location plan. They’ve had plenty of time to refine their arguments: There were two heated public hearings at the school building about the co-location.
Rachel is at the meeting, taking place in Brooklyn Technical High School’s cavernous auditorium, and just as we did in January, we’re going to stream our Twitter updates all evening. (This time, though, we’ll save them afterwards so they don’t vanish over time.) (more…)
February 28, 2012
Confusion about whether the city’s turnaround proposals would amount to school closures can be put to rest.
Eight of the schools the Department of Education has said it would “turn around” are on the Panel for Educational Policy’s April agenda — as closure proposals. The schools are among 33 the city has said it would overhaul in order to qualify for federal funding earmarked for overhauling low-performing schools.
The eight schools do not represent all of the closure proposals the city will ultimately make. Other schools that are not yet on the agenda, including Brooklyn’s School for Global Studies, were told on Monday that the city had scheduled public hearings about their closure proposals for late March and early April. (The panel approved 18 non-turnaround closures earlier this month.)
City officials have said that they would move forward with turnaround at all 33 schools, even after the city and union settled a key issue that had derailed previous overhaul processes at many of the schools and after it became clear that the schools’ performance varies widely. Turnaround would require the schools to close and reopen after getting new names and replacing half of their teachers.
Thirty-page “Educational Impact Statements” for each of the closure proposals offer clues about what the replacement schools would look like. The statements indicate that the city would maintain the schools’ partnerships, extracurricular programs, and many curriculum offerings. The school that replaces Automotive High School, for example, would still offer vocational certification in car repair. Several of the schools would be broken into “small learning communities” that include ninth-grade academies, according to the city’s plans.
In the statements, the department also explains the switch to a more aggressive overhaul strategy from the models that most of the schools had been undergoing until the end of last year, when their funding was frozen because the city and teachers union failed to agree on new teacher evaluations. (more…)
February 14, 2012
Dozens of teachers, parents, students, and at least one principal from the eight Queens schools facing “turnaround” say they have brought their concerns to district superintendents and other Department of Education officials this month to no effect.
On Monday evening, they found a more sympathetic audience: Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, who vowed to push back against the city’s plans to close the schools.
Marshall’s uncharacteristically aggressive promise came at a meeting at Queens Borough Hall that her office organized about the city’s plan to “turn around” 33 struggling schools. Under the plan, which Mayor Bloomberg announced last month as a way to secure federal funding, the schools would close and reopen this summer with new names and at least half their staffs replaced.
Marshall sat before a standing-room-only crowd with Dmytro Fedkowskyj, her appointee to the Panel for Educational Policy, the citywide school board that decides the fate of schools proposed for closure. As a panel member, Fedkowskyj has emerged as a frequent critic of the mayor’s school policies, signaling Marshall’s endorsement, but she has typically been soft-spoken on education issues.
That was not the case on Monday. Marshall often clapped and cheered as she listened to dozens of teachers and families defend their schools. Occasionally she even interjected to describe how her respect for teachers developed over years of working as an early childhood educator. (more…)