From the creation of a decentralized school system in 1970 till the legislature prohibited schools boards from making any personnel decisions in the mid 90s the NYC school system was fragmented. Well regarded Districts 2 and 4 in Manhattan achieved impressive gains with high poverty kids, examples of strong leadership and effective professional development.
District 22 in Brooklyn created a busing program to relieve overcrowding and integrate formerly all white schools as well as fully implement a shared decision-making, school-based budgeting model. District 15 boasted an active parent constituency and heavily involved school board.
About a third of the districts, due to favorable zip codes and/or creative leadership were models of collaboration.
At the other end of the spectrum the poorest neighborhoods with the neediest families were pillaged by rapacious school boards elected by local officials who benefited from the political patronage. School aide jobs, assistant and principal jobs were dispensed to the highest bidder with the best connections. Charlie Rangel may not have been corrupt but he protected those who were, and allowed Harlem schools to fester as his buds feasted at the trough.
The high school model, a paramilitary model, memos are issued and principals saluted. Schools were allowed to deteriorate, an unofficial triage, the lowest achieving schools absorbed more low achieving kids, more special ed, more ELL, the creation of dropout mills, a thinly disguised policy of protecting some and allowing others to slip into SURRdom, and allow the State to bear the blame of school closings.
High schools in the “right” zip code were protected, special zoning arrangements and special programs (i.e., Midwood) while others doomed to fail (i.e., Taft and Jefferson among many others).
In the Klein era elected school boards have been replaced by Community Education Councils with not a scintilla of influence. Seats are unfilled and they meet to empty audiences. Elected officials are barred from any contact with schools, unless they come with dollars in hand.
As an unnamed elected official lamented, “We’d give a $20,000 school aide job to someone from the community, now Klein gives $100,000 plus jobs to his friends’ kids.”
Far worse is the dispensing of entire schools to his friends or enemies of his enemies. The charter schools wars have allowed the administration to pay off favors and allow the mega-rich to play with other people’s children. These contemporary disciples of the 19th century missionaries snatch up the wretched poor into model schools, with private dollars, until they get bored. The “mom and pop” charter schools stumble trying to meet payrolls while the elites scatter their largesse. Nice while it lasts.
The illusion of principals as total decision-makers while Tweed drives instruction by fiat and the sword of progress report scores.
Superintendents are eunuchs, lacking the power to intervene until a progress grade tumbles, and networks leaders, many of whom are highly competent, can only suggest.
The chancellor’s decision to suspend habeas corpus, invoke “emergency powers,” to allow a friend’s charter school to expand, and push out a District 75 program for autistic children. pushing aside a directive from SED Commissioner Steiner is an affront to the rule of law.
Leonie Haimson on the NYC Parents blog connects the dots, a subculture given special favor after special favor, a very rich and powerful subculture.
A maelstrom is spinning: a politician lead demonstration at City Hall and sharp comments from Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver.
Will the doldrums of a steamy summer engulf this episode, or, has Joel so angered Albany that some retribution is in the offing?
While the passage of a State budget, four months late, finally allowed the legislature to adjourn; the legislature will return for a one-day session after the September 14th primary to make corrections and adjustments either in the budget or in other legislation.
Will both houses of the legislature get their act together and pass a charter amendment to the governance law reining in Joel?
When you toss a boulder into a pool of feces you never know who is going to get splashed?
UPDATE: The chancellor got splashed! After barbs were hurled by all, and probably a text from Gracie Mansion, the chancellor reconsidered, maybe backpedaled, or just plain was reversed, Girl’s Prep will seek another site in which to expand.