who should rule the schools

Communities must be involved in school governance, group says

Two members of the Campaign for Better Schools at today's press conference. Photo courtesy of the Campaign for Better Schools
Members of the Campaign for Better Schools at today's press conference. Photo courtesy of the Campaign for Better Schools.

One final installment in today’s all-mayoral-control-all-the-time report: Before the Assembly hearing began this morning, a coalition of community groups that promised to evaluate mayoral control by its results issued its its school governance recommendations.

Citing “reckless budget cuts” and a continued gap between black and white students in obtaining Regents diplomas, The Campaign for Better Schools recommended reconfiguring the city school board so that the mayor no longer appoints a majority of members.

The campaign’s platform, posted in full after the jump, addresses several of the chief critiques leveled against the Department of Education in recent years. One is that communities don’t have adequate input in making decisions about opening, closing and locating schools; the campaign recommends requiring community consultation. And the platform responds to a recent decision by the state education commissioner that principals have the right to determine school budgets by requiring that budgets be developed in consultation with parent leaders.

The coalition’s member organizations include Advocates for Children and the Alliance for Quality Education, among others. It is funded by a grant from the Donor’s Education Collaborative, a consortium that supports projects to enhance public engagement in education.


The Campaign for Better Schools is a diverse coalition of more than two dozen parent, youth, community based and education advocacy organizations from all five boroughs of New York City.  The Campaign for Better Schools supports the concept of Mayoral Control, but disagrees with the way it has been implemented.  At the same time, the reforms and policies that have been put in place as a result of mayoral control have not led to the turn-around of schools in some of New York City’s highest-need communities.  For instance, the achievement gap between African American and Latino students and white students in obtaining Regents diplomas has not budged, and graduation rates for immigrant students learning English has actually dipped in the last four years.  In addition, mayoral control has resulted in reckless budget cuts, and reforms have led to parents, students and communities being shut out of important decisions that affect the quality of education students receive.

The reforms outlined in this proposal will make mayoral control of schools workable by strengthening the decision making process by which education policies and reforms are developed, and by restoring the trust that families and communities put in the school system.  These recommendations were developed through a rigorous year long process that involved numerous discussions with national and local education experts, parent, student and community organizations in neighborhoods throughout New York City.  It is a community-driven proposal, developed by parents, youth and community groups.


Panel for Education Policy (PEP)

The PEP should have a narrow majority of members appointed by the City Council or other elected officials, and a minority of members appointed by the mayor.

PEP members should serve for set terms of a relatively short duration (3 years or less) and have full voting rights.
The PEP should select a Chair who sets meeting agendas


The mayor should appoint the Schools Chancellor

The Chancellor should not be a voting member of the PEP, but may serve as an ex-officio member.

Criteria and Selection of Board Members

The PEP should be diverse geographically (representatives from all boroughs).

The members of the PEP should reflect the school system’s diversity.

The PEP must include multiple community representatives.  Community representatives should be defined as parents, students and representatives of community based organizations.

Powers of the PEP

The Chancellor should have the power to propose the DOE operating budget and the five-year capital plan.  The PEP shall have approval power over the annual DOE operating budget and five-year capital plan.

The Chancellor should propose changes in education policies. The PEP shall have the power to approve major Chancellor-proposed education policy decisions.

The PEP should approve large DOE procurement contracts.

PEP Operations

The PEP should operate with an open public process.  As such all PEP meetings should be held publicly, on a regular monthly basis.  All decisions should be made publicly, by roll call vote.  Notices and agendas of PEP meetings should be widely disseminated publicly, in multiple languages, at least two weeks in advance.  PEP meetings should be held in venues large enough to accommodate large public attendance and appropriate interpretation services shall be provided at all meetings.  The PEP should solicit public comment on all voting issues.


The Independent Budget Office should be given legal authority to report on all aspects of the City school district including DOE’s finances, school performance, student achievement, student safety and shared decision making at the school level.

Sufficient funding should be provided to the IBO to support their new monitoring and reporting functions.

The IBO should:

  • Be guaranteed full and timely access to all NYC DOE data;
  • Annually compile, produce, and widely disseminate school system student demographics and achievement outcomes, as well as annual analyses of school system resource allocation and fiscal expenditure;
  • Use methodologies, benchmarks and indicators recommended by national agencies and expert researchers to produce the annual set of required data reports, and make their methodologies, benchmarks and indicators public;
  • Carry out annual analyses of critical school system education policy issues and issue their findings in widely disseminated public reports.

The law should be clarified to make the DOE’s finances completely open and available to the City Comptroller for financial oversight and auditing purposes.


School Level

The role of parents and high school students, on the school leadership teams should be strengthened. Student representatives should be selected through vote of student body.

Principals should be required to develop school based budgets in consultation with School Leadership Teams and ensure that budgets are aligned with schools’ Comprehensive Education Plans (CEP).

Principals should be required to hold public meetings to report on school finances and student performance, and to discuss plans for meeting CEP benchmarks and budget targets.

Parents and high school students who are involved in shared decision making should receive adequate training and support to responsibly carry out their duties and obligations.

District Level


District superintendents should be responsible for supervising principals and providing administrative oversight of schools in their district.   They should have access to all schools in their district as well as access to all school records to carry out their evaluations effectively.

Superintendents should be empowered to address issues regarding school choice, discipline (suspensions, expulsions, etc), language access (parents, ELL students), special needs, and shared decision-making.

Superintendents should hold public meetings to report on district performance and discuss plans for improvement of district schools.

The Chancellor should appoint district superintendents in consultation with the CDEC, Presidents’ Council and District Leadership Team.

District superintendents should be supported by sufficient staff to carry out their duties.

School Closings & New School Siting:

A process should be established that ensures community input before schools are closed, new schools are created, and new schools are placed inside existing schools.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at cbauman@chalkbeat.org.

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”