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July 2, 2012
Few hard details about 24 schools as city prepares legal action
Mayor Bloomberg speaks at a press conference this afternoon in Union Square. The city canceled meetings with the teachers and principals unions today as its lawyers prepare to seek a restraining order against a ruling that reverses thousands of hiring decisions at 24 struggling schools. Both the United Federation of Teachers and the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators planned to meet with city officials this afternoon to figure out what would come next for the schools, which had been slated to undergo an overhaul process called "turnaround." The process involved radically shaking up the schools' staffs, which total more than 3,500 people. But the arbitrator's ruling undid all of the changes. UFT President Michael Mulgrew said the meeting was already on his agenda by Friday afternoon, just hours after the arbitrator ruled that the city's staffing plans for the schools violated its contracts with the unions. A main agenda item would have been figuring out a mechanism for staff members who were not rehired at the schools to reclaim their positions. Another issue, Mulgrew said on Friday, was whether the city and unions might instead try to hash out a teacher evaluation agreement for the 24 schools so they could undergo less aggressive overhaul processes and still qualify for federal funding. But this morning, the city told the unions that the meetings were off. Mayor Bloomberg explained this afternoon that he thinks the city should not have to abide by the arbitrator's ruling until the arbitrator explains his reasoning.
June 29, 2012
Arbitrator rules for unions: Turnaround firing, rehiring reversed
Principals union president Ernest Logan and UFT president Michael Mulgrew announce their lawsuit over turnaround in May. An arbitrator has ruled that the city's plans to reform 24 struggling schools by shaking up their staffs violated its collective bargaining agreements with the teachers and principals unions. The arbitrator's decision adds a new and abrupt twist to months of uncertainty at the schools. It also guarantees that the city cannot claim more than $40 million in federal funds that the overhaul process, known as "turnaround," was aimed at securing. The turnaround rules require the schools to replace half of their teachers, and the city was trying to use a clause in its contract with the teachers union, known as 18-D, to make that happen. In recent weeks, "18-D committees" told hundreds and possibly thousands of teachers and staff members at the schools they could not return next year. Under the arbitrator's ruling, all of those staff members are now free to take their jobs back. The decision is a shocking blow to the Bloomberg administration, which turned to turnaround in January in a bid to win the federal funds without negotiating a new evaluation system with the United Federation of Teachers.
May 25, 2012
Turnaround arbitration to take place with uncharacteristic speed
Arbitration that will determine whether the city can move forward with its plans to "turn around" 24 struggling schools is set to take place with uncharacteristic speed. Earlier this month, the teachers and principals unions sued to stop the turnarounds, charging that the city's plans violated their contracts. A judge who was assigned to hear the lawsuit urged the two parties into arbitration, and the two parties agreed because it is important for the schools to have clarity soon about how to assemble their teaching rosters for the fall. Arbitration can sometimes take months. But when the city and unions yesterday finalized the detailed terms under which arbitration will take place, they emphasized speed. According to their agreement, the two parties will meet with the arbitrator on three dates in June, starting June 7 and ending June 26. But if other dates open up, they'll meet sooner, and they will meet in the early mornings and late at night until a resolution is reached. They are even asking the arbitrator to minimize the time spent on transitions between witnesses. The agreement also offers more details about what could happen after the arbitrator makes his decision.
May 24, 2012
As mayor, Allon would oppose testing but keep mayoral control
Tom Allon speaks about education policy at the New School near Union Square. Upper West Sider and mayoral hopeful Tom Allon would oppose testing in elementary schools — even though the state, not the city, sets the testing schedule. That was one of several policy positions he outlined for a sparse crowd of principals, campaign volunteers, and teachers’ union leader Michael Mulgrew yesterday evening who gathered to hear his first policy speech about education. Allon, a former teacher and political outsider, said he wants to be the “education mayor” — a mantle Bloomberg sought early in his administration. Allon briefly taught English and journalism at his alma mater, Stuyvesant High School; aided city officials in the creation two small high schools in Manhattan; and sent three daughters to public schools. The speech itself contained few hard proposals but instead focused on challenges facing the school system and a handful of small-scale solutions that are already in place, such as teacher mentoring programs that the UFT runs. It was when audience members pressed Allon for specifics that he offered ideas of what an Allon administration might look like. (His five likely competitors in the Democratic primary have also started to stake out their education platforms, but none has yet delivered a policy address on the subject.) Like Mayor Bloomberg, he would favor mayoral control and school choice. But like some of Bloomberg's fiercest critics, he would slash the Department of Education's central bureaucracy and reduce the emphasis on standardized testing. And on some issues, he would strike out for a middle ground.
May 16, 2012
Judge urges city, unions into arbitration in turnaround dispute
The first court appearance in the union lawsuit to halt hiring decisions at 24 turnaround schools ended with the judge telling the city and unions to resolve their dispute out of court. Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Joan Lobis urged the city and teachers and principals unions to resolve their contractual disputes through arbitration, rather than litigation. If the two sides would agree to let an independent arbitrator hear their case, then she would not need to rule on the unions' request for an injunction to halt hiring at the schools. Union and city lawyers both said they wanted to resolve the dispute quickly because schools would be harmed if hiring decisions are not made well before the end of the school year. "If you're both saying you need the arbitrator as soon as possible, an injunction would not be necessary," Lobis said. "If what you're saying is really sincere, then you'll get it to the arbitrator as quickly as possible." After conferring this afternoon, city and union lawyers accepted Lobis's suggestion. The two sides are meeting tonight to select an arbitrator and meeting dates, with the goal of resolving the legal questions about teacher and principal staffing at the turnaround schools by early June.
May 15, 2012
DOE's argument for lawsuit focuses on potential hiring delays
City lawyers have filed their response to a union lawsuit that seeks to derail plans to move forward on 24 school closures. Both sides are due in court tomorrow to argue their case about whether a temporary restraining order on the closures should be extended. The lawsuit seeks to prevent the Department of Education from following through on its decision last month to "turn around" 24 schools at the end of the school year. The plans include the replacement of up to 50 percent of the teaching staffs at the schools. Lawyers for the principals and teachers unions filed the lawsuit last week, and the DOE agreed to halt all hiring until Wednesday's hearing as part of the restraining order. As we reported last week – and as the city's response below argues – one problem the city has with the motion is that further delay to its plans could "cause disruption" to the hiring process.
April 20, 2012
Shuang Wen School inquiry reveals deep "dishonest behavior"
A parent stands in front of the Cherry Street entrance to the Lower East Side's Shuang Wen elementary school. A sprawling investigation into the leadership of a controversial dual-language school in Chinatown concluded that the school's principal had falsified attendance data and accepted money from a non-profit hired to administer after school language lessons. The Department of Education will move to fire Ling Ling Chou, who was removed from the school in September while as many as 16 different investigations were underway. According to the report, she frequently faked numbers when reporting information about the school to the city and the United States Department of Education, including student attendance records and the length of the school day. The report does not conflict with a different report released last year by the special commissioner of investigations, which found that Chou and other staffers committed multiple improprieties, but did not outright steal public money. "For years, Principal Chou engaged in dishonest behavior, unbeknownst to her students and school community," said Chancellor Dennis Walcott in a statement. "Principal Chou’s conduct has failed to meet the standard we set for our principals, and I am filing charges to terminate her employment.” Shuang Wen consistently boasts some of the strongest test scores in the city, but divisions between the staff and parents at the Lower East Side school have led to numerous allegations of and investigations into misconduct.
June 25, 2010
Pushback to the idea that yanking principal improves a school
The principals union is fighting against a federal program that calls for improving struggling schools by firing their principals. As part of a three year federal grant program to "turn around" the city's lowest-performing schools, the city can choose from four intervention plans, all of which call for removal of the schools' principals. Even the least intrusive option — the transformation method — keeps the schools' staff in place but requires the principals to be replaced. Department of Education officials said on Thursday that they were lobbying the state to allow them to keep some principals in place. Schools that are showing signs of progress and others that have principals hired in the last three years, may be able to keep their principals, officials said.
September 23, 2009
City urged superintendents to favor Leadership Academy principals
The city Department of Education has often praised the principal-training program it helped incubate, the nonprofit Leadership Academy, despite veteran educators' grumblings. But it has never, to my knowledge, come out and flatly declared that it would rather hire principals trained at the academy's Aspiring Principal Program than principals trained elsewhere (like, for instance, a traditional university program.) That's what chief schools officer Eric Nadelstern wrote in the memo below, sent out to superintendents and school support organizations in June. "[I]f we are not actively seeking to place these Leadership Academy graduates, we are ignoring an important talent pool," Nadelstern wrote. "I expect to see the number of unplaced APPs drop rapidly over the next few weeks."
September 1, 2009
Principals union sues Bloomberg and DOE over parking permits
The Council of School Supervisors and Administrators is suing Mayor Bloomberg, the city, and the Department of Education for refusing to restore thousands of parking permits to the union's members. According to the union, an arbitrator decided in August that the city had to return the permits or it would violate its contract with CSA. But that decision hasn't ended the back-and-forth. After two weeks of discussions, the union's legal counsel headed to court today to file a lawsuit. "Nobody has gotten an answer from the City about why it won't honor the arbitration," a spokeswoman for CSA, Chiara Coletti, wrote in an email. Coletti said that the decision not to reinstate the 6,500 permits came from the mayor's office. Jason Post, a spokesman for the mayor, did not address whether the city felt it was in compliance with the arbitrator's decision, but said the current system should continue. "For most City agencies and their workers the system has worked well for over a year, yet the CSA has stubbornly tried to hold onto their perks and has refused to work with us to combat misuse and abuse. The current system for the Department of Education limits the number of placards to the number of parking spots at schools, a fair and reasonable policy that we think should continue. We have not yet received the legal papers for this case," Post wrote in an email.
June 23, 2009
Teachers and principals unions fighting over first days of school
Principals are furious that the teachers union bargained away two of the most important work days of the school year, according to principals union president Ernest Logan. But teachers union president Randi Weingarten says Logan shouldn't complain, because he hasn't come up with a better plan. "My members are livid," Logan said about the agreement that would have teachers and students reporting to school on the same day for the first time this fall. Principals use the two teacher work days at the beginning of the school year to finalize schedules, register new students, set up classrooms, get staff members on the same page about discipline and curriculum, and integrate new teachers into the community, he said. "When are we going to do all of that if everybody's popping in there the same day?" Logan asked. Logan said he first heard about the agreement at 6:05 a.m. today on NPR, which he was listening to while shaving. "I almost cut myself," he told me. "Nobody used common sense here. The educators did not make this decision." The decision to have students and teachers start school on the same day was Schools Chancellor Joel Klein's preference, according to Weingarten.
May 18, 2009
Mitchell Wiener, A.P. and flu victim, will be buried Wednesday
The city principals' union just passed along these details for the funeral of Mitchell Weiner, the assistant principal at IS 238 who died yesterday from complications of the H1N1 or swine flu. Wednesday, May 20th at 2 p.m. Sinai Chapels 162-05 Horace Harding Expressway Fresh Meadows, NY 11365 Phone: 1-800-446-0406 • 718-445-0300 Fax: 718-321-0896 MAP & DIRECTIONS Here's an excerpt from a Daily News story on Wiener that ran a few days before he died: When a teenage neighbor in need of math tutoring knocked on the door of his Queens apartment 28 years ago, Mitchell Wiener immediately dropped everything he was doing. The young math teacher spent hours coaching Melissa Lipsky that day in 1981. Over the next several weeks, Wiener met with Melissa numerous times, guiding her through her eighth-grade arithmetic lessons. ...
April 22, 2009
Most schools already meeting the mayor's call to service
Part of the million pennies raised by schools through Penny Harvest. Photo from ##http://insideschools.blogspot.com/search?q=%22penny+harvest%22##Insideschools##. City principals will have to submit plans in October explaining how they’ll meet the Mayor Bloomberg's new service requirement for schools, but it shouldn't be an onerous task for most of them. Most schools, particularly at the high school level, already engage in some service, according to Department of Education spokeswoman Kerri Lyon. At Manhattan Bridges High School in Midtown, for example, students have always been required to log 40 hours of service before they graduate, Principal Mirza Sanchez Medina told me yesterday. Other schools announced service initiatives this week that were planned before Bloomberg's announcement: Students from the Academy of Urban Planning and the Bushwick School for Social Justice planted 16 trees in between their campuses in honor of Earth Day, and kids at Harlem’s PS 57 pitched ideas for community-improvement grants to Scholastic’s Be Big Fund. For the many schools that already engage in service, the mayor's initiative should expand the number of volunteer options available to students, Lyon said. And schools that have never participated in service before can start slowly, such as by joining Penny Harvest, the popular program where kids donate pennies to charities of their choice, she said.
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