A New Governance Law: Should We Re-Create School Boards? What Should Be Their Powers? Can We Create Communities of Schools Within Neighborhoods?


MBA students at Stanford and Wharton and doctoral candidates at Columbia and Harvard will be speculating for years to come on the immense failure of the Bloomberg/Klein years?
Why was a mayor who is such a superb manager such a failure in managing the DOE?
How could a chancellor who was so dependent on consultants ignore the wealth of knowledge on effective schools?
Peter Senge, Dee Hock, Norm Fruchter, Larry Cuban, David Tyack have written extensively about complex organizations, schools and school reform: and Klein has ignored their wisdom.
The Tweedlings are parsecs away from the 3rd grade teacher in South Ozone Park or the middle school teacher in Bensonhurst.
The core of any school system, the tipping point, is the place where teachers encounter kids: the classroom. How can we empower and support schools, not from Tweed, but at the local level?
How can we re-create communities of schools, as Andy Wolf in the NY Sun reminds us,  that were supported by their neighborhoods?
In 1970 New York State created Community School Boards with wide ranging powers: they hired and fired superintendents, principals and assistant principals, they drove budget decisions, and, a fatal flaw, they could ignore the chancellor.
 In the mid nineties the teachers’ union and the Board of Education Inspector General Ed Stancik supported legislation that required that chancellors, after consultation with school boards, selected superintendents and all personnel decisions were to be made by the superintendents, and specifically excluded school boards from making any personnel decisions.
The system worked reasonably well in middle income areas, regardless of race: school boards were effective. In the poorest areas community/parent participation was meager and schools showed little progress.
The lowest achieving schools were under the direct supervision of the chancellor.
The current Community Engagement Councils, a creation of Bloomberg/Klein,  are totally powerless. Councils are made up of parents selected by District Parent Association Presidents with two members appointed by the Borough Presidents. Many of Councils have vacancies as members leave. They are a total failure.
Should we recreate Community School Boards, and, if so, should we reserve seats for parents? Should other seats be elected? When should the elections be held?
Should training for school board members be required?
What should be the powers of School Boards? Should they be involved in the C-30 (Supervisory Selection Process)? recommend candidates to the superintendent? Should they be responsible for zoning, opening of new schools/programs? closing of schools/programs? criteria for gifted programs? should Schools Boards make policy decisions for their schools?
Should some of the responsibilities of the Integrated Service Centers (ISC) be derogated to School Boards?
Should School Boards serve as ombudsman? 
Much of the discussion has center on mayoral control, rather than the impact of that control.
Changing governance at the top, without creating strong supports for schools at the local level will only be cosmetic. Schools, parents, city agencies, community organizations, not-for-profits, religious organizations must become a seamless support system for the children they serve.

2 responses to “A New Governance Law: Should We Re-Create School Boards? What Should Be Their Powers? Can We Create Communities of Schools Within Neighborhoods?

  1. perchance2dream

    Here is my question– What CAN come next?

    IMHO you must know the schools before you can be an effective administrator. A majority of those people are gone.

    The people who have filled the void in their absence do not show signs that (despite the huge salaries they believe are their RIGHT) they will stay.

    So what is left to rebuild with? In those that are left, I do not see insights into kids and schools, only into what their own next career step is.

    It will be hard to start over without commitment to the city and its children.

    Chasing scores is not equal to education.


  2. Ed is right that the key is to focus on the interface between teachers and students, and this is the source of hope for the system. Teachers come to work to do the best they can for the students everyday. This is what Klein and all the ideological reformers count on when they start to tinker with governance; that the teachers will, no matter what obstacles the governance reates, continue to try to help students. And that is what teachers do.

    There are any number of stories of teachers ignoring directives to get rid of outdated curricula materials that they know from experience have value and using them on the sly or hoarding them away until the newest fad has passed. Teachers come to school to teach and they don’t worry overmuch about school boards and Chancellors.

    We can recreate communities of schools and local boards to advise real educators on changing conditions and how best to meet them.

    The key is to have real educators making decisions based on empirical evidence not on ideology.

    Perchance is right that Klein has stripped the system of competent educators, but I believe that a real educational leader will not have difficulty attracting other educators to join him/her in working to improve outcomes for students int his city. If you can make it here…

    The next Mayor will have to replace this administration with one headed by a respected educator who is willing to talk to the teachers and the Teachers Union in order to develop a collaborative plan for moving forward.

    Moving forward will probably require us to take some steps backward as in recreating the Chancellor’s District and the Extended Time Schools. Making progress in Special Education may require restoring the School Based Support Teams to their original three member configuaration. Moving forward will necessarily require an emphasis on standards rather than test scores. In fact, moving forward will probably mean scrapping nearly everything Klein has done.

    That is a sorry way to describe eight years of school leadership.


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