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February 16, 2012
Bloomberg: Evaluations progress won't stop "turnaround" plans
Today's evaluations announcement would appear to eliminate the main reason for the city's controversial plan to "turn around" 33 struggling schools. But Mayor Bloomberg said the city would move forward with the plans anyway. Bloomberg proposed turnaround, which would require the schools to close and reopen with new names and many new teachers, last month as a way to circumvent a requirement that the city negotiate an evaluation deal for teachers in those schools. Now, having resolved a sticking point in those negotiations resolved — the appeals process for teachers who receive low ratings — the city could conceivably appeal to the state to let it continue receiving federal funds to implement improvement strategies that had been underway there until the evaluations negotiations broke down in December. But Bloomberg — who did not join state and union officials announcing the evaluations deal in Albany today — said during a press conference at City Hall that he would not be backing down from the turnaround plans. "Nothing in the deal prevents us from moving forward with our plan to replace the lowest performing teachers in 33 of our most troubling schools," he said. Bloomberg said the aggressive overhaul strategy was necessary because no teachers would be removed from schools because of low scores on the new evaluations for at least a year and a half.
February 1, 2012
Principals union chief urges state to reject city's turnaround bid
The city's bid to "turn around" 33 struggling schools is politically motivated and should be quashed, according to the head of the city's principals union. The city is days away from submitting a formal request for State Education Commissioner John King to release millions of dollars in federal funding for the 33 schools even though the city has not yet negotiated new evaluations with the teachers union. Ernest Logan, president of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, sent a letter to King Tuesday urging him to reject the city's request. Logan charges that the city's announcement last month that it would abandon two in-process school improvement strategies, "transformation" and "restart," was meant only to sidestep a requirement that the city negotiate with CSA and the United Federation of Teachers. Without an agreement, King froze federal funds to the schools last month. "Simply stated, if the Turnaround model were the most educationally sound plan of intervention for the 33 schools, it would have been selected for any or all of them in 2010 and 2011," Logan writes. "It was not. It is being proposed now only as a means of evading the ... evaluation requirements." The city is required to negotiate new evaluations in order to receive federal funds and, in a plan Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced last month, additional state school aid. But Cuomo also said he would push changes to the state's 2010 evaluation law if districts do not adopt new evaluations by mid-month. City officials are lobbying legislators to take that route, even though a statewide teachers union, NYSUT, has said it is on the verge of agreement for nearly all districts other than New York City.
February 1, 2012
Diane Ravitch exhorts city principals to join evaluations protest
Principals union president Ernest Logan with Diane Ravitch after Ravitch's speech to union members on Tuesday City principals should overcome their fear and join with more than a thousand of their colleagues from across the state who oppose New York's teacher evaluation rules, Diane Ravitch urged during a speech to the principals union Tuesday. A group of Long Island principals launched a petition in November arguing that the state’s evaluation regulations — which require a portion of teachers’ ratings to be based on their students’ test scores — are unsupported by research, prone to errors, and too expensive at a time of budget cuts. The petition has attracted nearly 1,300 principals from across the state, but relatively few — just over 100 — work in New York City, in a trend that has persisted since the petition's earliest days. Sean Feeney, a Nassau County principal who drafted the petition, said in November that city principals seemed to be more afraid of jeopardizing their jobs by speaking out. Ravitch, a frequent and outspoken critic of the Bloomberg administration's education policies, took aim at those concerns during the kickoff event in the union's 50th anniversary celebration. She concluded her speech by exhorting city principals to sign on to the evaluations petition. "There is strength in numbers," she said to the roughly 150 current and retired principals in the audience. "The DOE can't fire you all."
January 4, 2012
Principal dissatisfaction reaches new heights, union head says
City principals are increasingly unhappy with their jobs, according to the union that represents them. In the latest newsletter from the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, President Ernest Logan reported that 73 percent of union members are not happy with their workload, compensation, and job security. That's up from 68 percent the last time the union surveyed its members, in 2009. The survey of CSA members was conducted by Global Strategy Group in September and October, according to Chiara Coletti, a union spokeswoman. She said assistant principals and other administrators in the union were less dissatisfied, leading to an overall dissatisfaction rate of 59 percent. In 2009, that number was 48 percent. In recent years, principals have seen their role shift from setting a vision and strategy for instruction to managing a seemingly unending list of procedural tasks. In his first communication with principals in April, Chancellor Dennis Walcott promised to cut down on their paperwork load, and in November he outlined steps that he said would cut down time spent on administrative tasks by an hour a day.
December 19, 2011
City, nonprofits at odds over legal liability at 14 restart schools
A dispute over who would take the fall if something goes wrong inside struggling schools is delaying a federally funded turnaround effort that had already gotten off to a slow start. As part of its application to secure school improvement grants, the city agreed to hand over operations to independent education organizations at 14 of its lowest-performing schools through a process called "restart." The Department of Education selected six nonprofits to take over the reins at those schools, awarding them more than $17 million altogether. But four months after the groups started working in the schools, the money remains in the city coffers. The sticking point is that city lawyers want the groups, known as educational partnership organizations, to cover their own legal costs for any litigation brought by teachers, principals, staff or students in the schools they’re working in. The proposition is controversial because the groups are replacing an authority figure — the superintendent — who does not actually carry any of the liability costs. The DOE is effectively an insurance carrier for superintendents, so when a lawsuit challenges, for example, a teacher rating that the superintendent signed off on, the DOE bears the legal costs. The EPOs said they assumed they would have the same protection against legal liability, known as indemnification, because the state's regulations mandate that they adopt all of the roles and responsibilities of each school's superintendent. But according to several EPO directors, the city's initial contract language treats them like vendors providing services to the schools, not managing everything from hiring to budgeting to discipline. “It’s been several months of frustration over what we see as a fairly straightforward issue,” said a program director from one of the EPOs. “We feel we should be covered to the same extent that a superintendent would be covered in the case of a lawsuit.”
December 8, 2011
Principals union chief lambastes city's school closure strategy
Among the press releases that went flying after the city announced its first set of school closures earlier today, the one from principals union president Ernest Logan stood out for its stridency. In a statement the length of a short essay, Logan decried school closures as "a losing strategy" that traumatizes needy students, shuts out educators, and prevents scrutiny of the city's reform efforts. Adding eight months to mayoral control's age, he said twice that the Bloomberg administration has had a decade to fix all schools but has not. Nine of the 15 schools whose closures or truncations were announced today have opened since Mayor Bloomberg took control of the schools; one replaced a failing elementary school just three years ago. Logan suggested that at least two additional Bloomberg-started schools would show up on the second installment of the closure roster when it comes out tomorrow. "The fact is that closure is an admission of failure by City Hall, whose weak or non-existent interventions amount to either a cynical statement of indifference to children of poverty or an inferiority complex about their own ability to come up with solutions," Logan said. The statement elicited a rebuttal from Chancellor Dennis Walcott, who called Logan's statement "embarrassing" for the union.
October 6, 2011
With regatta, Harbor School turns to city's sailors for support
Harbor School sophomore Cullen Palicka sets out for the school's inaugural regatta today Seafaring students from a maritime-themed high school took to the New York Harbor today for a fundraising regatta. Teams from corporations paid to join sailors on 16 boats, including two named "Extra Credit" and "Late Pass" that were manned by students from the Harbor School, in a race around Governor's Island, where the school has been the sole full-time tenant since last year. "We're finally introducing the Harbor School to the sailing community," said Murray Fisher, the eight-year-old school's co-founder and the head of its support foundation. Coupled with a fundraising gala tonight on Governor's Island, the regatta appears likely to take in $125,000, organizers said. That money could go a long way at a school that has to pay for boat fuel and oyster habitats in addition to the salaries of its teachers. Each of the school's six career and technical education programs — which teach fish farming, boat repair, and deep-sea diving, among other skills — has a full-time teacher and needs an assistant and supplies if students are to get strong enough training to prepare them for maritime professions.
August 9, 2011
As city names 'restart' partners, principals union sounds alarm
With just weeks to go before Labor Day, the city has announced the nonprofit groups that will help 14 struggling schools get a fresh start this fall. A deal between the city and teachers union last month cleared the way for 33 low-performing schools to receive federal School Improvement Grants starting this fall. In exchange, the city must overhaul the schools in accordance with one of four federally sanctioned processes, and one of them, "restart," requires schools to turn over the reins to an approved nonprofit organization. Six nonprofits, several with existing ties to the city Department of Education, will take over the management of two to three schools each. The groups, known as Educational Partnership Organizations, will control budgeting, personnel decisions, curriculum, student discipline, and other issues, and the principals of those schools will report directly to their EPO rather than a DOE superintendent. A matching process linked 11 of the schools with their first-choice EPO, and the other three were matched with one of their top picks, according to a DOE spokesman, Frank Thomas. The schools and nonprofits will begin working together as soon as the state approves the pairings, he said. The remaining schools set to receive the new federal funds will undergo "transformation." Transformation relies on replacing longtime principals and promising additional resources. In a statement, principals union president Ernie Logan said he had "intense discussions" with the DOE to make sure the 33 schools would receive adequate support but remained unconvinced.
June 14, 2011
City officials pushing back against Jan. Regents exam cuts
Momentum is mounting against the state's decision to eliminate the January administration of Regents exams required for high school graduation. City officials have pressured the state to restore the testing period, Mayor Bloomberg said at a press conference today about the city's graduation rate. He called the elimination of January Regents exams "a very big deal" and said restoration would cost the state only "a trivial amount of money." More than 100 city principals have petitioned the state to restore the testing date. At today's press conference, principals union president Ernest Logan also emphasized the relatively low price tag of maintaining the January testing date, often used by students making a final push for graduation. "The state — for a pittance — has decided to take away that option," he said. This year, Chancellor Dennis Walcott said today, 2,400 students took a Regents exam in January and then graduated — roughly the same number of students represented by this year's graduation rate climb. "If January Regents disappear, those students unfortunately will not be able to graduate," he said.
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.
March 3, 2010
Dozens of budget cut protests scheduled for tomorrow
With all that's going on in Albany, it has been easy to ignore that the state budget proposed to start on April 1 could bring devastating education budget cuts. Aiming to put the fiscal situation back on the front-burner, education advocates across the state will hold a series of rallies tomorrow against Governor Paterson's proposed $1.1 billion in school budget cuts. Nine of the 18 rallies will take place in the city's five boroughs. A full schedule is at the end of this post. A flagship event taking place at Murry Bergtraum High School in downtown Manhattan will feature teachers union president Michael Mulgrew, principals union president Ernest Logan, and Geri Palast, executive director of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, which spearheaded an ultimately victorious lawsuit for more funding for the city's schools.
January 28, 2010
City plugs schools' budget gaps with teachers' pay raises
The day before principals were due to submit midyear budget cut plans, the city has decided to fill their budget holes with money set aside for teacher and principal pay raises. It's a bittersweet moment for school staff, who could lose out on the 4 percent pay raises other unions have received, but won't see their schools stripped of money for classroom supplies and technology midyear. The city's plan rests on its ability to pressure the United Federation of Teachers and the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators into accepting to two percent raises over two years, half of what the unions expected and a proposal both union presidents have met with angrily worded statements. Marc LaVorgna, a spokesman for the mayor, said the city will swap the savings from halving teacher and principal's pay raises with the savings that would have come from a midyear 1 percent cut to schools and a planned 4 percent cut for 2011.
September 17, 2009
Principals union head questions Klein's Oct. 30 hiring ultimatum
Principals union president Ernest Logan is raising questions about Schools Chancellor Joel Klein's threat to take money away from principals who don't fill their vacancies by Oct. 30. The point of Klein's threat, made in an e-mail to principals yesterday and first reported by the Web site Insideschools, is to get principals who might be trying to outlast the hiring freeze to pick up "excessed" teachers from the ATR pool. Those teachers, who currently number more than 1,500, are drawing full salaries even though they don't have permanent positions in schools. Their salaries are "a fiscal liability we cannot sustain in this budget climate," Klein said in his letter. But principals can't hire teachers who aren't eligible for their vacancies or who don't apply for jobs, Logan emphasized in a response today to Klein's hiring deadline. "We would like to know more about what the DoE will do if appropriate licensing matches are not made or if excessed teachers fail to show up at the recruitment fairs," he said. The Department of Education is requiring teachers in the ATR pool to attend borough-based hiring fairs next week, according to an e-mail obtained by union activist Norm Scott. Ann Forte, a DOE spokeswoman, confirmed that the fairs are compulsory for ATRs.
June 25, 2009
School to start Sept. 9, not Sept. 8, after principal protest
The city is reversing a back-room deal that would have had teachers and students returning to school on the same day in September, giving staff no official planning time. Now, instead of starting school on the day after Labor Day, students will have their first day on Wednesday, Sept. 9. That will give principals and teachers one day together to plan for the opening of school. Principals union president Ernest Logan had attacked the plan to eliminate the beginning-of-the-year planning days, which he said were the most important days of the year. "No one used common sense here," he told me. After today's schedule adjustment, Logan declared, "Common sense prevails," in a message to principals. He also said his union would continue to discuss the effects of the schedule change with the Department of Education. One effect of the change will be a stray school day for students at the end of next year. Instead of finishing on the last Friday in June, as they are this year, students will be required to report to school the following Monday, as well. Below are Logan's full statement and the city's press release, which emphasizes that other components of the teachers union's deal with the city will save the city $100 million a year.
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.
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