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. First, Logan’s full message to the principals in his union:

June 25, 2009

Dear Colleagues,

For the past few days, I have been communicating with you about an agreement the city made with the UFT, scheduling teachers to return to school the same day as students. Since then, I have been in regular contact with the Chancellor about ways in which this agreement would affect preparation for the safe and orderly return of our children to school. Hundreds of you have also reached out to the Chancellor, and many of you have also contacted the Mayor.

Thanks to your persistent efforts, we have recovered a day of preparation and planning for the opening of school. All staff will report to school on Tuesday, September 8, 2009, and students will return the following day, Wednesday, September 9, 2009. The last day of school for students will be Monday, June 28, 2010.

We continue to discuss with the DOE the impact of this agreement. In the meantime, with school about to end tomorrow, I wanted to get this news to you as quickly as possible and to thank you for bringing about this change in the school calendar.


And here’s the city’s press release:


Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, United Federation of Teachers (UFT) President Randi Weingarten and Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein today announced an agreement to shift the first day of school for students from Tuesday, September 8th to Wednesday, September 9th for the 2009-2010 school year. Teachers will report on Tuesday, September 8th to prepare their classrooms for the arrival of students, and secondly for professional development. In order to maintain the same number of classroom instruction days, the last day of school for students will now be Monday, June 28th, instead of Friday, June 25th. Monday, June 28th had been previously scheduled as a professional development day for teachers and will continue serve as the last day of work for teachers.

“This agreement will allow us keep the school year intact with kids in the classroom for the same number of days, while providing teachers and principals an administrative day to prepare for the arrival of students,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “The rapidly growing burden of pension and healthcare costs has siphoned resources away from education, public safety and every other City service. The proposed new plans created with the UFT will save the City an average of $100 million annually over the next 20 years. The savings will help the City continue to increase education spending, which has nearly doubled over the last 7 years. I again want to thank Randi Weingarten and her team for helping to reduce long term City expenses, while also ensuring we continue the major progress we’ve made in improving City schools.

“Just as it was very important to go back to the tradition of teachers and students starting the school year after Labor Day, it was also important to give teachers time to prepare their classrooms before students arrive,” said UFT President Weingarten. “Now we’ve done both under this agreement. The deal also allows the City to save money, educators to preserve the age-55 retirement, and the schools an opportunity to revisit the budget if the cuts threaten to derail the progress we have been making. I want to thank the Mayor and his team for helping make this agreement work well for kids and for the schools.”

“This agreement will be a real help to school leaders, teachers, and students,” said Chancellor Klein. “While maintaining hundreds of millions of dollars in pension cost savings, Mayor Bloomberg has ensured that our students will return in the fall to well-prepared schools where they can immediately begin to build on the great progress they’ve made over the past seven years.”

On Monday, Mayor Bloomberg and UFT President Weingarten announced an agreement to support legislation to create a modified health and pension plan for newly hired UFT members, while at the same time preserving all health and pension benefits for UFT members, including the union’s age-55 retirement benefit. The agreement also sets a seven percent annual return on fixed Tax-Deferred Annuity accounts for Teachers Retirement System and Board of Education Retirement System members. The agreement will save the City an average of $100 million annually over the next 20 years when legislation is enacted. As a component of the agreement, teachers would return to their traditional start date after Labor Day and would no longer report for two professional development days on the Thursday and Friday before Labor Day – required since 2005.

the end

A 60-year-old group that places volunteers in New York City schools is shutting down

PHOTO: August Young

Citing a lack of support from the city education department, a 60-year-old nonprofit that places volunteers in New York City schools is closing its doors next month.

Learning Leaders will cease operations on March 15, its executive director, Jane Heaphy, announced in a letter to volunteers and parents last week.

In the message, she said the group had slashed its budget by more than a third, started charging “partnership fees” to participating schools, and explored merging with another nonprofit. But the city pitched in with less and less every year, with no guarantee of consistency, she said.

“This funding volatility has created insurmountable challenges to the long-term viability of our organization,” Heaphy wrote. “We regret the vacuum that will be created by our closure.”

The group — which began as part of the city school system but became its own nonprofit in the 1970s — says its volunteers work with more than 100,000 students in more than 300 schools every year, many of them faithfully. When then-84-year-old Carolyn Breidenbach became the group’s 2013 volunteer of the year, she had been helping at P.S. 198 on the Upper East Side daily for 12 years.

Heaphy’s full message to volunteers is below:

Dear [volunteer],

It is with a heavy heart that I write to inform you Learning Leaders will cease operations on March 15 of this year. This organization has worked diligently over the last few years to sustain our work of engaging families as Learning Leaders, but the funding landscape has become too challenging to keep our programs going. While we have been able to increase our revenues from a generous community of funders, we have ultimately come to the conclusion that without a consistent and significant base of funding from the NYC Department of Education, we cannot leverage foundation grants, individual donors, or school fees sufficiently to cover program costs.

In the face of growing financial challenges, Learning Leaders reduced its costs as thoughtfully as possible — and in ways that did not affect our program quality. Rather, we sought to deepen and continually improve our service to schools and families while eliminating all but the most necessary costs. These efforts reduced our budget by more than 35 percent.

At the same time, we sought greater public support for our work with schools and families across the city. We are grateful to the foundations and individual donors that have believed in our work and provided financial support to keep it going. We were gratified when schools stepped up to support our efforts through partnership fees. While these fees only covered a portion of our costs, the willingness of principals to find these funds within their extremely tight school budgets was a testament to the value of our work.

Throughout an extended period of financial restructuring Learning Leaders advocated strongly with the Mayor’s Office and the DOE [Department of Education] for a return to historical levels of NYC DOE support for parent volunteer training and capacity building workshops. While we received some NYC DOE funding this year, it was less than what we needed and was not part of an ongoing budget initiative that would allow us to count on regular funding in the coming years. Several efforts to negotiate a merger with another nonprofit stalled due to the lack of firm financial commitment from the DOE. Over time, this funding volatility has created insurmountable challenges to the long-term viability of our organization.

We regret the vacuum that will be created by our closure. If you have questions or concerns about opportunities and support for family engagement and parent volunteer training, you can contact the NYC DOE’s Division of Family and Community Engagement at (212) 374-4118 or [email protected].

On behalf of the board of directors and all of us at Learning Leaders, I offer heartfelt thanks for your partnership. We are deeply grateful for your work to support public school students’ success. It is only with your dedication and commitment that we accomplished all that we did over the last 60 years. We take some solace in knowing that we’ve helped improve the chances of success for more than 100,000 students every year. The Learning Leaders board and staff have been honored to serve you and your school communities.

Jane Heaphy
Executive Director

Rise & Shine

While you were waking up, the U.S. Senate took a big step toward confirming Betsy DeVos as education secretary

Betsy DeVos’s confirmation as education secretary is all but assured after an unusual and contentious early-morning vote by the U.S. Senate.

The Senate convened at 6:30 a.m. Friday to “invoke cloture” on DeVos’s embattled nomination, a move meant to end a debate that has grown unusually pitched both within the lawmaking body and in the wider public.

They voted 52-48 to advance her nomination, teeing up a final confirmation vote by the end of the day Monday.

Two Republican senators who said earlier this week that they would not vote to confirm DeVos joined their colleagues in voting to allow a final vote on Monday. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska cited DeVos’s lack of experience in public education and the knowledge gaps she displayed during her confirmation hearing last month when announcing their decisions and each said feedback from constituents had informed their decisions.

Americans across the country have been flooding their senators with phone calls, faxes, and in-person visits to share opposition to DeVos, a Michigan philanthropist who has been a leading advocate for school vouchers but who has never worked in public education.

They are likely to keep up the pressure over the weekend and through the final vote, which could be decided by a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence.

Two senators commented on the debate after the vote. Republican Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who has been a leading cheerleader for DeVos, said he “couldn’t understand” criticism of programs that let families choose their schools.

But Democrat Patty Murray of Washington repeated the many critiques of DeVos that she has heard from constituents. She also said she was “extremely disappointed” in the confirmation process, including the early-morning debate-ending vote.

“Right from the start it was very clear that Republicans intended to jam this nomination through … Corners were cut, precedents were ignored, debate was cut off, and reasonable requests and questions were blocked,” she said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”