decisions decisions

Most students got a top HS pick; for some, choices remain

In a year when legal wrangling complicated the high school admissions process, the city managed to place more than half of eighth-graders in their first-choice school, city officials said today.

Still, more than 6,500 eighth-graders didn’t get into any high school at all, according to the Department of Education’s annual press release touting admissions results. The city released the results today, nearly a month later than usual and more than two weeks after the department mailed out admissions decisions that had been delayed by a lawsuit over school closures.

The 80,412 students who submitted high school applications included 8,382 students who applied to one of the 14 high schools the city tried to close this year. Originally, the department planned to assign those students to another high school listed on their application. But after the city lost a lawsuit stopping the school closures, the department generated new matches for the students, giving 1,397 of them a choice between attending a school the city has deemed failing and another school the student ranked lower. (The other 7,000 students ranked the schools slated for closure so low on their applications that they were placed elsewhere.) Students have until the end of next week to choose, according to a letter sent to principals last week by Leonard Trerotola, the department’s high school enrollment director.

An additional 174 students who were matched with schools originally slated to close will be able to submit an application in the supplementary round, typically reserved for students who were not accepted to any school. The 6,520 other students who did not receive a high school match will also be able to apply to the schools originally slated to close, Treratola told principals. The department also opted not to match any of the 1,087 students who applied to selective programs at the once-closing schools with those programs but will allow the students to reapply, according to the press release.

When the ruling was first announced last month, teachers union president Michael Mulgrew told GothamSchools that the union would sue to force the city to place students in the schools that were originally proposed for closure. Dick Riley, a union spokesman, would not comment today on the results of the high school admissions process.

The complete press release is below.

CHANCELLOR KLEIN ANNOUNCES MORE THAN 80 PERCENT OF STUDENTS ADMITTED TO A TOP CHOICE HIGH SCHOOL FOR FIFTH CONSECUTIVE YEAR

Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein today announced that 86 percent (69,363) of the 80,412 eighth grade students who applied for admission to New York City public high schools in 2010 have been matched to one of their top five choices. More than half of the applicants – 52 percent (41,667) – received their first choice, 77 percent (61,777) of students received one of their top three choices, and 86 percent (69,363) received one of their top five choices-marking the fifth consecutive year that more than 80 percent of high school applicants received one of their top five choices. In all, 92 percent of students (73,718) were matched with one of their choices.

 “Our high school admissions process provides tremendously varied options that respond to the diverse needs and interests of our students, with the aim of best preparing them for success in college and their careers,” Chancellor Klein said. “I am pleased that for the fifth consecutive year, more than 80 percent of students were admitted to one of their top five choices.”

Among this year’s applicants, 20,140 students listed a new small school as their first choice, and 12,638 of those students – 63 percent – were matched to their first choice. A total of 214 new small secondary schools accepting ninth-graders have opened since 2002, and 12 more will open at the start of the 2010-11 school year.

The high school admissions process consists of three rounds and begins after students list up to 12 high school programs in order of preference on their applications. In the first round, students applying to the City’s specialized high schools receive their matches; this round was conducted in February.  During the second round, known as the main round, the vast majority of eighth-graders receive their high school match; these letters were sent earlier this month. Students were matched to their highest choice possible based on their interests, eligibility, and the selection method used by schools. This year, 6,694 students did not receive a match in the main round and have been automatically entered into the third round, known as the supplementary round.

Additionally, after a recent State Supreme Court ruling halted the City’s plans to phase out 19 failing schools, the Department ran a match process for students who listed one of the schools originally slated for phase-out on their initial high school application. Of the 8,382 students who selected a phase-out school or program on their applications, 1,397 were matched to one of those programs. Pending an appeal of the Court’s decision, most of those students (1,221) can choose between two options-the phase-out school or the school they were matched to in the main round of the process. The remaining 174 students did not receive a main round match and will be able to select a second school option during the supplementary round.

Screened programs at the phase-out schools were also listed by 1,087 of the 8,382 students on their initial applications, and these students will be able to reapply to any of the screened programs they listed.  If the City wins its appeal, students who select phase-out schools or programs will attend the schools they were matched to in either the main or supplementary round.

Students participating in the supplementary round have until April 29 to submit their choice forms to guidance counselors. The Department of Education will host an information and counseling fair for students about the supplementary round on Thursday, April 22, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Educational Campus in Manhattan (122 Amsterdam Avenue, at 66thstreet). School representatives and admissions counselors will be available to discuss high school options with students and their families. Students in the supplementary round will receive high school matches on May 26.

Details about the 2010 high school match results are below.

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first steps

Superintendent León secures leadership team, navigates evolving relationship with board

PHOTO: Patrick Wall
Superintendent Roger León at Tuesday's school board meeting.

As Newark’s new superintendent prepares for the coming academic year, the school board approved the final members of his leadership team Tuesday and began piecing together a roadmap to guide his work.

The board confirmed three assistant superintendents chosen by Superintendent Roger León: Jose Fuentes, the principal of First Avenue School in the North Ward; Sandra Rodriguez, a Hoboken principal who previously oversaw Newark Public Schools’ early childhood office; and Mario Santos, principal of East Side High School in the East Ward. They join three other assistant superintendents León selected for his team, along with a deputy superintendent, chief of staff, and several other officials.

The three assistant superintendents confirmed Tuesday had first come before the board in June, but at that time none of them secured enough votes to be approved. During last month’s meeting, the board assented to several of León’s leadership picks and to his decision to remove many people from the district’s central office, but it also blocked him from ousting several people.

This week, Board Chair Josephine Garcia declined to comment on the board’s reversal, and León did not respond to a request for comment.

What is clear is that the board and León are still navigating their relationship.

In February, the board regained local control of the district 22 years after the state seized control of the district due to poor performance and mismanagement. The return to local control put the board back in charge of setting district policy and hiring the superintendent, who previously answered only to the state. Still, the superintendent, not the board, is responsible for overseeing the district’s day-to-day operations.

During a board discussion Tuesday, Garcia hinted at that delicate balance of power.

“Now that we’re board members, we want to make sure that, of course, yes, we’re going to have input and implementation,” but that they don’t overstep their authority, she said.

Under state rules, the board is expected to develop district goals and policies, which the superintendent is responsible for acting on. But León — a former principal who spent the past decade serving as an assistant superintendent — has his own vision for the district, which he hopes to convince the board to support, he said in a recent interview on NJTV.

“It’s my responsibility as the new superintendent of schools to compel them to assist the district moving in the direction that I see as appropriate,” he said.

Another matter still being ironed out by the board and superintendent is communication.

León did not notify the full board before moving to force out 31 district officials and administrators, which upset some members. And he told charter school leaders in a closed-door meeting that he plans to keep intact the single enrollment system for district and charter schools — a controversial policy the board is still reviewing.

The district has yet to make a formal announcement about the staff shake-up, including the appointment of León’s new leadership team. And when the board voted on the new assistant superintendents Tuesday, it used only the appointed officials’ initials — not their full names. However, board member Leah Owens stated the officials’ full names when casting her vote.

The full names, titles and salaries of public employees are a matter of public record under state law.

Earlier, board member Yambeli Gomez had proposed improved communication as a goal for the board.

“Not only communication within the board and with the superintendent,” she said, “but also communication with the public in a way that’s more organized.”

The board spent much of Tuesday’s meeting brainstorming priorities for the district.

Members offered a grab bag of ideas, which were written on poster paper. Under the heading “student achievement,” they listed literacy, absenteeism, civics courses, vocational programs, and teacher quality, among other topics. Under other “focus areas,” members suggested classroom materials, parent involvement, and the arts.

Before the school year begins in September, León is tasked with shaping the ideas on that poster paper into specific goals and an action plan.

After the meeting, education activist Wilhelmina Holder said she hopes the board will focus its attention on a few key priorities.

“There was too much of a laundry list,” she said.

early dismissals

Top Newark school officials ousted in leadership shake-up as new superintendent prepares to take over

PHOTO: Patrick Wall
Incoming Newark Public Schools Superintendent Roger León

Several top Newark school officials were given the option Friday to resign or face termination, in what appeared to be an early move by incoming Superintendent Roger León to overhaul the district’s leadership.

The shake-up includes top officials such as the chief academic officer and the head of the district’s controversial enrollment system, as well as lower-level administrators — 31 people in total, according to documents and district employees briefed on the overhaul. Most of the officials were hired or promoted by the previous two state-appointed superintendents, Cami Anderson and Christopher Cerf, a sign that León wants to steer the district in a new direction now that it has returned to local control.

The officials were given the option to resign by Tuesday and accept buyouts or face the prospect of being fired by the school board at its meeting that evening. The buyouts offer a financial incentive to those who resign voluntarily on top of any severance included in their contracts. In exchange for accepting the buyouts, the officials must sign confidentiality agreements and waive their right to sue the district.

Earlier this week, León submitted a list of his choices to replace the ousted cabinet-level officials, which the board must approve at its Tuesday meeting. It’s not clear whether he has people lined up to fill the less-senior positions.

It’s customary for incoming superintendents to appoint new cabinet members and reorganize the district’s leadership structure, which usually entails replacing some personnel. However, many staffers were caught off guard by Friday’s dismissals since León has given little indication of how he plans to restructure the central office — and he does not officially take the reins of the district until July 1.

A district spokeswoman and the school board chair did not immediately respond to emails on Friday about the shake-up.

Some staffers speculated Friday that the buyout offers were a way for León to replace the district’s leadership without securing the school board’s approval because, unlike with terminations, the board does not need to sign off on resignations. However, it’s possible the board may have to okay any buyout payments. And it could also be the case that the buyouts were primarily intended to help shield the district from legal challenges to the dismissals.

León was not present when the staffers learned Friday afternoon that they were being let go, the employees said. Instead, the interim superintendent, Robert Gregory, and other top officials broke the news, which left some stunned personnel crying and packing their belongings into boxes. They received official separation letters by email later that day.

The people being ousted include Chief Academic Officer Brad Haggerty and Gabrielle Ramos-Solomon, who oversees enrollment. Also included are top officials in the curriculum, early childhood, and finance divisions, among others, according to a list obtained by Chalkbeat.

In addition to the 31 being pushed out, several assistant superintendents are being demoted but will remain in the district, according to the district employees.

There was concern among some officials Friday about whether the turnover would disrupt planning for the coming school year.

“I don’t know how we’re going to open smoothly with cuts this deep,” one of the employees said. “Little to no communication was provided to the teams about what these cuts mean for the many employees who remain in their roles and need leadership guidance and direction Monday morning.”