moving on

Longtime principals union president Ernest Logan announces his retirement

PHOTO: Stephanie Snyder
Principals union chief Ernest Logan

This summer, New York City will lose a well-known fixture on the education scene. In the midst of his fourth three-year term as president of the city’s principals union, Ernest Logan announced he will retire from the role effective August 1.

Logan’s retirement caps a career he began decades ago as an English teacher at P.S. 224 in Brooklyn. He has been involved with the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators since 1993, when he was first appointed a CSA chairperson for District 23 in Brooklyn, and has served as president for nearly 11 years.

As CSA president, Logan was known as an outspoken leader whose statements often made headlines. In early 2016, he lambasted Mayor Bill de Blasio and his top education officials for their “Renewal” school improvement program, which he called a “recipe for disaster.”

Early in de Blasio’s administration, 94 schools were identified as “struggling” and targeted under the program to receive additional resources. But a year after its launch, Logan said Renewal was not working as planned, and instead resulted in the micromanagement of many of his principals.

“To keep such a challenging initiative on track requires focus and clarity, a streamlined process and principal discretion,” Logan wrote in a January 2016 CSA newsletter. “Sadly, in the timeworn tradition of the DOE, there are so many cooks running around the kitchen, the chefs don’t know what kind of dish they’re concocting.”

He revived his criticism later that year, slamming the initiative for failing to show significant results in its first two years of operation.

Among his recent achievements, Logan helped his union secure a contract in 2014 that included salary increases, retroactive pay, and more incentives for principals to work in low-performing schools. And in 2016, he negotiated pay increases, health benefits and professional development funding for early childhood center directors, according to a CSA press release.

“Ernie Logan was a great partner with us,” United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said in an interview with Chalkbeat. “Especially during the challenging time under the Bloomberg administration years.”

Logan openly criticized some of Mayor Bloomberg’s policies, such as his push to close low-performing schools and dramatically reshape others.

CSA Executive Vice President Mark Cannizzaro will be the new CSA president and finish off the remaining years in Logan’s term.

In a statement, Cannizzaro praised his soon-to-be-former boss. “His belief in public education and his love for children served as his moral compass for the past 44 years,” he said, “and that compass has served him well.”

Logan was born in Harlem and raised in Brooklyn, alongside twelve siblings. He attended the same public schools system he would later help influence.

Logan said his retirement won’t mean the end of his work in education. In a statement, Logan said he plans to continue advocating on educational issues in his position as executive vice president of the American Federation of School Administrators.

“There is still work to do, especially within the current climate,” Logan said. “I plan to stay busy.”

opinion

Chancellor Fariña on why losing mayoral control ‘would mean chaos, gridlock and corruption’

PHOTO: Patrick Wall

As the leader charged with providing a high-quality education to 1.1 million New York City students, I have to be honest with you:

Our school system is headed for disaster. You may have heard something in the news about mayoral control. Let me explain what it is and why losing it would be devastating.

The state government must act to keep the mayor in charge of our schools by June 30. If they don’t, the entire system will slide back into the old, decentralized structure we had before. That would mean chaos, gridlock and corruption. I should know, I’ve been working in city schools since the 1960s. I saw what happened before 2002 when we put the mayor in charge.

First and foremost, today, the leadership of our schools makes sense. I am accountable for continued progress in our schools and the mayor is my boss. That means New Yorkers know exactly who to blame if things aren’t going well and exactly who to call when they need something done. It also means that the largest school system in the nation has an executive with real power to shake things up, innovate on behalf of students and families, and make wholesale changes that benefit all corners of the city.

If Albany lets mayoral control lapse, there will be no one accountable for progress. Our schools have never been stronger, and all that we have accomplished together will be at risk. Instead, power will be in the hands of 32 separate community school boards. That will mean a mountain of new red tape and surging costs due to inefficiency. According to the Independent Budget Office, costs dropped 22 percent after mayoral control was enacted in 2002.

But that’s not the worst of it. The most catastrophic thing is how our students will suffer.

With 32 separate entities in charge of the “system,” it will be nothing more than a constant struggle for resources. Some communities will win and some will lose. Some communities will get more than their share and some will be asked to do with much less. If parents think that’s unfair, who can they complain to?

Having 32 separate school boards is ripe for corruption. Isolated districts are small enough to be taken over by factions who aren’t putting the best interest of kids first. In the past, these boards too frequently ended up as personal property that could be bartered and traded, and used to reward cronies. Under the old system, entire districts did not have well-trained teachers or necessary materials. This isn’t just speculation – again, I was there.

Managers, appointed by the local school boards, inflated the price of contracts to generate lucrative kickbacks that took money directly away from students and siphoned money from taxpayers. One district alone stole $6 million from students, paying 81 employees for jobs they never showed up to. In another, school safety was entrusted to a high-level gang member.

Before mayoral control, graduation rates hovered around 50 percent and many schools simply were not safe. Students in the city consistently did worse than their peers across the state on standardized tests.

In the 15 years since mayors have controlled the school system, New Yorkers have seen a turnaround that has been nothing less than stunning.

Right now, New York City’s graduation rate is the highest in history. The drop-rate rate is the lowest it has ever been. For the first time ever, our students beat the rest of the state on English tests. Crime in schools has fallen 35 percent over the last five years. And we have the highest-ever college enrollment rate.

Mayor de Blasio has brought change to every district in the city. In two short years, we have added free, full-day, high-quality pre-K for every 4-year-old. Now, we are working to do the same with 3-K, instruction for 3-year-olds.

We have after-school programs for every middle schooler and we’ve made investments in school facilities—guaranteeing that every classroom is air conditioned and every school has a gym. All of these accomplishments, and many others, are a direct result of mayoral control.

I want to be clear: This isn’t about the mayor I work for. Mayoral control is vital for New Yorkers no matter who the mayor is.

There is only one proven way to run the New York City school system — that’s putting our schools in the hands of a duly elected, accountable leader, the mayor of New York. The future of our City is at stake unless Albany takes immediate action.

Carmen Fariña is chancellor of the New York City Department of Education.

Transition

New principal named for Memphis school at the center of grading investigation

PHOTO: Laura Faith Kebede
Trezevant High School serves the Frayser community under Shelby County Schools in Memphis.

Shelby County Schools is turning to a veteran principal with school turnaround experience to take the helm of Trezevant High School, where its last leader unearthed grading irregularities that have shaken the entire district.

Corey Kelly

Corey Kelly just finished his fourth year as principal at Sherwood Middle School. Both Sherwood Middle and Trezevant High are part of the Innovation Zone, the district’s intense program for improving low-performing schools.

Kelly officially starts at Trezevant on July 31, but already has begun work at the Frayser school, district spokeswoman Kristin Tallent said Friday. She called Kelly a “dynamic leader.”

He follows Ronnie Mackin, who became Trezevant’s principal last August and soon after discovered discrepancies between some student report cards and transcripts. Mackin reported the irregularities to district administrators, who hired an independent firm this spring to review transcripts from all of high schools in the system for the last four years. That review is ongoing.

Trezevant has been in the news for years, distinguishing itself both for its championship-winning football program and its “priority school” status for test scores in the state’s bottom 5 percent.

In 2014, the school was moved to the district’s iZone in an effort to boost academic performance. This year, Superintendent Dorsey Hopson named Trezevant one of 14 “critical focus” schools receiving additional investments in an effort to save them from closure.

Before taking the top job at Sherwood Middle, Kelly was principal at Havenview Middle School for almost nine years and an assistant principal at A. Maceo Walker Middle and Georgia Avenue Elementary. He also taught for seven years at Hillcrest High.

Kelly was among dozens of statewide stakeholders chosen to collaborate last year with the State Department of Education to develop Tennessee’s new schools plan under the federal education law known as the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA. Kelly’s working group focused on accountability.