NYC schools disband teaching and learning division, which oversees Banks’ top literacy initiative

A woman points at a page in a book while two students watch
Carolyne Quintana, the Education Department’s deputy chancellor for teaching and learning, is leaving the department at the end of the school year as her division is being dissolved. (Alex Zimmerman / Chalkbeat)

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In a major shakeup, the city’s Education Department is disbanding its division of teaching and learning, which oversees schools Chancellor David Banks’ centerpiece literacy initiative.

The deputy chancellor who leads that department is leaving at the end of the school year, according to a letter Banks sent to Education Department staff on Monday.

The announcement of Deputy Chancellor for Teaching and Learning Carolyne Quintana’s departure took some staff by surprise. Quintana has been supervising Banks’ top education priority to reshape how the city’s elementary schools teach children to read, mandating that all elementary schools across the five boroughs are using one of three curriculums by next school year. The department has also been working to overhaul high school algebra programs.

“We are moving forward with dissolving the Division of Teaching & Learning and integrating its work into the Division of School Leadership under the leadership of Deputy Chancellor Dr. Danika Rux,” Banks wrote in a Monday letter to Education Department staff.

Banks signaled that the move was designed to put resources closer to schools — a pledge he made with Mayor Eric Adams when he first took the helm of the nation’s largest school district more than two years ago. He suggested some of the staff could be placed under the purview of local superintendents, who directly supervise principals.

The shakeup follows other efforts to give superintendents more power, with Banks previously assigning other Education Department staff who work in central offices to local superintendents’ offices.

“The superintendents are clearly in charge, and the content experts are subordinate,” one staffer who works in a superintendent’s office wrote in a text message, adding that they were “shocked” to learn of Quintana’s departure.

Shakeup could be logical for next phase of literacy push

Some observers are optimistic that the restructuring could help create clearer lines of authority and streamline the implementation of the curriculum changes. Before the latest shakeup, decisions about which curriculums to mandate and how to set up teacher training came from Quintana’s division. But the local superintendents who work with principals to implement those curriculums answer to Rux, the deputy chancellor responsible for school leadership.

There are challenges “having decision making split between the curricular choices and the implementation of those across two different deputy chancellors,” said Evan Stone, the CEO and co-founder of Educators for Excellence, a teacher advocacy group. The organization supported the Education Department’s push for a curriculum mandate, and Stone said Quintana is an “incredible leader.”

Another source involved with implementing the NYC Reads initiative said shifting responsibility for the program closer to the superintendents was logical now that districts have all chosen which curriculum to use and are focused on the daily work of helping schools adjust.

“This makes complete sense in terms of managing the NYC Reads initiative in particular,” said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “Now we’re more into the implementation … and that falls on the superintendents.”

But other observers said that they are concerned that the reorganization will wind up shuffling many of the system’s literacy experts into superintendent offices where those leaders may not be able to deploy them as effectively. Education Department officials have not said how many staffers will remain in central offices or sent to local superintendents.

“Many of these district superintendents are just getting on board [with the new reading curriculums] and literacy is not necessarily their field of expertise,” said Susan Neuman, a professor at New York University who serves on the city’s literacy advisory council. She added the literacy council wasn’t in the loop on the shakeup which “came out of nowhere for us.”

Another department employee who works in a superintendent’s office said change could deliver needed manpower to help schools implement new curriculums.

“We don’t have the people to do that effectively on top of everything else,” the staffer said. Still, they added it was unclear who would be sent to their office and whether they would have relevant expertise.

The reorganization also comes at a delicate moment for Banks’ signature literacy initiative. The second half of the city’s districts will begin implementing the mandated curriculums in September, which requires a massive effort to train thousands of teachers. The initial rollout, which began this school year, has been bumpy so far with some teachers reporting that they have not received sufficient training on the new curriculum materials.

The overhaul of the high school algebra curriculum, which has drawn mixed reactions from educators, is also poised to expand next year.

Layoffs not expected

In his letter to Education Department staff, Banks indicated that the restructuring would not result in layoffs.

“I know change is hard,” Banks wrote. “I want to assure you that this restructuring is not a negative reflection of your work. In fact, we want to make sure that your hard work is as close to our students as possible.”

The teaching and learning division is staffed by about 2,000 people. The division includes hundreds of staff who oversee support for special education and multilingual learners; those people will not move to superintendent offices and will instead report to Rux.

Quintana did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the circumstances of her departure or whether she has another job lined up. The New York Post previously reported that Quintana was frustrated that she was paid less than a male deputy chancellor, though an Education Department spokesperson said that did not play a role in her departure.

“I want to thank the dedicated team of the Division of Teaching & Learning for their tireless work to improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of students daily,” Quintana wrote in a statement. “It was an honor to lead you, and I will always be your ally in fighting for educational equity. I look forward to supporting this transition.”

Banks indicated the department’s Chief of School Support Miatheresa Pate will oversee the restructuring effort and will be the “interim executive chief” of teaching and learning during the transition period. The superintendent of Bronx District 10, Maribel Hulla, will move into the chief of school support role.

The chancellor indicated that Quintana will spend the remainder of the school year helping with the transition and advising him on “other key projects.”

Do you have inside details about the shakeup? Send us a tip to ny.tips@chalkbeat.org

Michael Elsen-Rooney contributed to this story.

Alex Zimmerman is a reporter for Chalkbeat New York, covering NYC public schools. Contact Alex at azimmerman@chalkbeat.org.



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