Many hands were involved in seasoning the stew that became the amended extension of the school governance/mayoral control law. Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver was the chef, but Mayor Bloomberg and Randi Weingarten and Steve Sanders and Merryl Tisch and some key Assembly members added a little salt and a little spice.
Former Assembly Ed Chair Sanders said the 2002 mayoral control law never anticipated the virtual elimination of Community Superintendents and the new law restores them with clearly enunciated functions and mandates, and, an office within the district and a staff.
The newly amended school governance law requires that Community Superintendents,
(1) To provide assistance and direct support to parents in accessing information, addressing concerns and responding to complaints relating to their children’s education that cannot be resolved at the school level.
(2) …. 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, assist the community superintendent in resolving complaints in a timely manner, and work to develop a cooperative relationship with parents and the school community.
Will the Chancellor acknowledge the changes in the law by complying and creating structures mandated in the law?
I decided to construct a number of diagrams tracing the evolution of the Joel Klein management structures, it began to look like a Jackson Pollack painting!
The management guru, William Ouchi, and his 2003 book, Making Schools Work, drives the current structure of the Department of Education. All revolves around accountability at the school level, and, the principal as the responsibility center.
In the Ouchi model the role of the educational superstructure is to support, not supervise principals, to provide universal principles, and clear and transparent measurements.
Think of 1450 franchises (aka schools), the central office provides advise, does national advertising, pre-screens prospective employees, carefully recruits and trains potential franchise owners (aka Principals), recommends consultants to assist at the local franchise level, no deviation permissible from the core organizational principles, and revokes franchises from sites that do not earn sufficient profits, and the term “sufficient profits” is clearly defined with periodic transparent data (aka, Progress Reports and Quality Reviews).
The fallacy is twofold: we are dealing with children and families, not selling hamburgers, and, we don’t chose neighborhoods in which to locate our franchises.
Research tells us that turning around schools is more easily said than done, and, closing dysfunctional schools and opening new schools at the same site is not producing the dramatic results that Gates and company presaged.
Studies show us that even before they walk or enter preschool, children from poor families trail behind their more advantaged peers, and the older they get the wider the gaps.
We know that drawing parents into schools as early as possible, listening to and responding to parent concerns, creating teams of parents, teachers and school leaders, is the one intervention that study after study supports.
The original Klein model, the regional model, created regionally based Offices of Student Placement, Youth and Family Support Services (SPYFFS), the office supported school safety and suspension, all guidance functions, parent support services, attendance, community organizations, children in shelters: apart from “teaching and learning,” the arenas that are so critical to delivering effective classroom instruction. In the devolution to Support Organizations SPYFFS was disbanded, most of their services disappeared and others morphed to the Integrated Service Centers (ISC) and are treated as compliance functions. The current Parent Office at Tweed, lead by Martine Guerrier should be disbanded, it exacerbates rather than resolve problems. Support services must be as close to classrooms as possible.
What should the “central office within the district” look like? What types of services should the office provide?
I would humbly suggest,
1. Director of School Leadership Team Training, Planning and Support.
At the core of the amended law is the support of School Leadership Teams (SLT), that role must fall to the Superintendent … requiring/assisting school SLTs in the creation of bylaws, attending and supporting SLT meetings, training teams in crafting Comprehensive Education Plans that drive school budgets, analyzing school data, assisting in dispute resolution and generally creating effective learning teams:, the key to achievement.
2. Director of Parent Coordinators and Parent Information Services.
School Leadership Teams (SLT) should decide whether the position of parent coordinator is required at their school site. The new district-based “office” must be able to answer parent and community inquiries. Currently if a parent is dissatisfied with an answer at a school the next step is a call to “311,” the call bounces back to the principal, an endless feedback loop. Parents may not be satisfied with an answer, however, they are entitled to a timely response with specific information.
3. Director of School Safety, Student Discipline and Suspensions.
The major bitch in any school is student behavior, or lack thereof. Frequently student discipline is punitive. Principals concentrate on Inquiry Team work, teaching and learning, and commonly assign the “discipline” function to an assistant principal or a dean. School Safety Agents work for the police department and commonly have tense relationships with principals and school staffs. Local police precincts, school safety personnel, deans, and assistant principals must coordinate efforts, and undergo regular training to create positive rewards and climates, not simply punishments, after all, discipline begins in classrooms..
4. Director of Guidance.
The elimination of the SPYFFS offices abandoned guidance counselors and school social workers. Rather than providing services to children and families their jobs have evolved to compliance. So many of our children confront issues that impede classroom success: gang infested projects, single or no parent households, health and psychiatric issues, homelessness, substance and physical abuse, etc.
The current function of the ISC is to make sure mandated IEP counseling takes place … the core of counseling has been abandoned, left totally to each individual counselor, who is usually overwhelmed. The current management scheme is a dismal failure, and it’s the children and their families who suffer.
5. Director of Community Support Services.
Schools are not islands, they exist in neighborhoods with a range of organizations that impact schools. Faith-based organizations, whether churches or mosques or storefronts attract the very same families that attend our schools. Precinct councils, fire houses, community organizations, offices of elected officials, housing projects, advocacy organizations, all and more are involved in the lives of the children and families that we teach. A score of Community Schools attempts to coordinate these services. The Office of the Superintendent must act to coordinate these services.
There are, however, serious caveats: the creation of the new district-based Office of the Superintendent bears a significant cost, especially in this difficult budget year. Secondly, the Rubik’s Cube that is the current management structure appears to overlap the services anticipated in the yet to be created Office of the Superintendent.
Should the devolved ISCs, the Children First Networks (CFN) work under the supervision/guidance of the Superintendent, rather than as currently designed, the Support Organization?
But, then again, if the CFN is under the direction of the Superintendent aren’t we beginning to re-create the former overstaffed Superintendent’s office?
Whoever said this was going to be easy … any ideas? recommendations?