As the dust settled in November the Democrats emerged with a bare 32-30 majority in the NYS Senate and elected Malcolm Smith as their leader. The mischief makers, Espada, Monserrate, Diaz and Kruger threatened to move across the aisle and extracted “power,” positions that will give them more influence and more dollars: leadership positions in the Senate, committee chairs and perks.
In June, Espado skipped across the aisle creating gridlock, and, last week Espada completed the triple cross and skipped back.
The new leadership in the Senate, Sampson, Espada, Dilan and Kruger are desperately trying to find some credibility, and do what they do best … seek power. They have decided to hold the Assembly School Governance bill hostage, demanding that the Governor, Assembly and Mayor Bloomberg agree to a number of amendments.
The Assembly yawned, they have no intention of agreeing to anything, and will return to Albany in September.
The Senate can continue to obstruct by refusing to pass the Assembly bill, can pass a “one-house” bill or pass the Assembly bill.
On July 1 governance reverted to the pre 2002 mayoral control law, which basically gives the mayor, and his appointee, the chancellor, totally unbridled authority.
The Assembly bill, quietly, makes sweeping changes in school governance/functioning, changes greater than any law since the 1969 decentralization law.
The changes in the law, aside from the composition of the City Board, and the nature of terms (fixed or not) have not been the subject of public debate, in fact most think the law was simply re authorized without change.
In fact this is a law that makes substantive changes.
The Functioning of the City Board (aka PEP).
* “The City Board shall elect its own Chairperson from among its voting members.”
* ” And Two (members) shall be parents of a child attending a public school within the City District.”
* ” The Chairperson of the City Board shall ensure that at every regular public meeting there is a sufficient period of time to allow for public comment on any topic on the Agenda prior to any City Board vote.”
* “…any member of the City Board may request that items be placed on the City Board’s agenda ….”
* “Hold a joint public hearing with the chancellor …, or in the case of a proposed significant change in school utilization the chancellor or his or her designee, and the impacted school-based management team regarding any proposed school closing or significant change in school utilization, including the phase-out, grade reconfiguration, re-siting, or co-location of schools, of any public school located within the Community district …”
* “There shall be a City-Wide Council on English Language Learners …” as well as a council on high schools.
The major change is that the chancellor will no longer serves as the chairperson and the functioning of the City Board (PEP)) will be transparent and the public will have full access to the business of the Board, including full opportunity for public comment. In addition school utilization, in its broadest sense, will be the subject of City Board, School District, School and public scrutiny.
The Role of Superintendents is Expanded and Clarified.
* “to supervise and evaluate, at least annually, the performance of principals … including promoting effectiveness of student achievement and parental involvement developing an effective shared decision-making relationship with the school-based management team … The Community Superintendent shall have access to all school records that he or she deems necessary and shall consider comments contained within an assessment made by the school-based management team …”
* “… principals must submit written justification to demonstrate that the proposed school-based budget is aligned is with the school’s Comprehensive Education Plan, and shall include a provision allowing for the school-based management team to respond to such justification. The community superintendent shall consider the principal’s written justification along with any response provided by the school-based management team, prior to making such certification.”
* “…establish a process that allows for school-based management team members, other than the principal, to dispute any decision made by the principal where such team members reach a consensus that the decision is inconsistent with the goals and policies set forth in their schools existing Comprehensive Educational Plan, the community superintendent shall provide a written response to the school-based management team and the principal that includes the information reviewed, and the basis for the community superintendent’s decision regarding such dispute..”
* “To provide assistance and direct support to parents in accessing information, addressing concerns and responding to complaints relating to their child’s education that cannot be resolved at the school level.”
* “The community superintendent shall establish a central office within the district and hire and supervise sufficient staff to directly interact with parents, respond to information requests, receive input and comments … work to develop a cooperative relationship with parents and the school community.”
* “The chancellor shall ensure that community superintendents are assigned to tasks predominantly within their own community districts and that in no event shall community superintendents be assigned to any task which would impair their ability to exercise the powers and duties enumerated ….”
Without equivocation, superintendents have been re-established, their role clarified, and, working with parents and community as a core function.
There is no mention of Support Organizations.
* “Adopt a policy proposed by the chancellor that promotes the recruitment and retention of a workforce at the City District, Community District and School Level that considers the diversity of the students attending public schools … City Board shall review the annual report issued by the chancellor outlining the initiatives taken to enhance diversity and equity in recruitment and retention and the impacts of such initiatives to the workforce …”
The percentage of teachers of color in the workforce, especially Black males, has been steadily declining, this section of the law requires the chancellor to address the issue and report to the City Board.
Transparency of the Contract Process.
There are numerous technical changes to the law that will require the chancellor to bring many more contracts before the City Board for scrutiny before approval.
Changes in School Utilization: Closing, Phase-outs, Re-siting, Sharing Space All Subject to Public Review
* “…prepare an educational impact statement regarding any proposed school closing or reconfiguration, re-siting, or, co-location of schools …such educational impact statement shall include:
– The current and projected pupil enrollment of the effected school …
– The impacts of the proposed school closing or significant change … to any affected students.
– An outline of any proposed or potential use …
– The effect of such school closing or significant change in utilization on personnel needs, the costs of instruction, administration, transportation and other support services.
– The type, age, and physical conditions of such school building …
– The ability of other schools in the affected community district to accommodate pupils following the school closure …
– Information regarding such school’s academic performance …
– Such educational impact statement shall be made publicly available … at lease six months in advance of the first day of school in the succeeding school year.
– No sooner than 30 days and no later than 45 days after the filing of the educational impact statement … the chancellor … shall hold a joint public hearing with the impacted community council and the school based management team … public may present comment …
-All proposed school closings … shall be approved by the City Board.
Under the new law we have moved from reading about a school closing in a Tweed press release to a formal, detailed process with the opportunity for public comment and detailed info re the closing, reconfiguration. Charter school sited in public schools will be subject to the same intense public scrutiny.
The Roles of the Independent Budget Office and the Office of the Comptroller
* “To provide information, data, estimates and statistics regarding all matters relating to the City district as requested by the Director of the Independent Budget Office of the City of New York, in a timely fashion.”
* “The Independent Budget Office shall be authorized to provide analysis and issue public reports regarding financial and educational matter … including but not limited to,
– student graduation and dropout data
– student enrollment projections
– school utilization, class sizes and pupil-to-teacher ratios
– student assignment data
– delivery of services to students with disabilities and English language learners ….
* “The Comptroller of the City of New York shall have the authority to conduct operational and programmatic audits, in addition to financial audits, of the City District to the same extent as other city agencies.”
The IBO has an excellent reputation, the new law provides funding for the expanded IBO in the law, gives both the IBO and the Comptroller full authority to examine and comment on all data.
If the Senate continues to dawdle it will be impossible to implement the new law by September,
The changes embedded in the law, unless the chancellor attempts to avoid them, will create yet another model … a model that is built bottom up … while the mayor and the chancellor will control what happens on the City Board (PEP) the law devolves authority to School Leadership Teams in schools and Superintendents in school districts.
I am hopeful that we will see a new beginning, but I’m a glass half full kind of guy.