It may be a new day and a new system, but at Tweed the plan for handling mayoral control's expiration is to act as though it never happened. When Department of Education officials began considering what the system would look like if mayoral control expired, they envisioned anarchy. (At least when talking to the press.) An internal memo released to reporters described a complete breakdown of the power structure, such that no one would have the legal authority to hire or fire teachers. That concern appears to have been cast aside. In the days following the law's expiration, the DOE has tried to make as few changes as possible to the school governance system. The issue at the heart of the confusion is the legal status of community superintendents.
Special education advocates are giving early praise to recommendations released today that would transform schools' approach to students with special needs. The recommendations, which Chancellor Joel Klein endorsed, center on integrating students with special needs into the city's ongoing school reforms. Garth Harries, a department official who is starting a new job in New Haven, Conn., on Monday, authored the recommendations following a months-long review of the city's special education offerings. Actually implementing the plans will be left to a new top-level administrator who will be responsible for nearly a quarter of the system's students. Laura Rodriguez, a longtime Bronx educator who currently heads one of the support organizations that principals can choose to join, will become the city's first Chief Achievement Officer for Special Education and English Language Learners. Rodriguez will be one of only seven people reporting directly to the chancellor, making the needs of nearly 250,000 disabled students and ELLs "visible and transparent at the cabinet level" for the first time, Klein said.
A screenshot from ##http://www.dfer.org/##DFER's web site## advertises four new branches. (The Florida branch is yet to be official, according to executive director Joe Williams.) The lobbying group whose H.R. recommendations virtually staffed President Obama's Education Department is spreading its "reform" tentacles. Democrats for Education Reform now has branches in Missouri, Colorado, and Wisconsin, in addition to its hometown, New York, and the organization plans to be in 10 states by 2011, executive director Joe Williams told me earlier this week. "We have very good conditions at the federal level right now for at least talking about reform, but we're really talking about what at the end of the day is a local issue," Williams said. "So the strength of any national organization like ours is really going to come down to how strong its local units are." The new branches are mostly self-sustaining, relying on leadership from volunteer boards and local residents already active in education. "It's a lot of people who were doing a lot of work on reform, but there was no political arm to engage at the political level," Williams said. What Williams calls DFER's "outpost" in Colorado is a case study for its plans elsewhere. Rather than generate policy ideas, the organization focuses on raising money for candidates who support its favored brand of changes to education — policies like charter schools, merit pay, and higher teaching standards. Among the Colorado officials DFER supports is Mike Johnston, who advised candidate Obama's presidential campaign and replaced the president of Colorado's state senate, Peter Groff, after he joined President Obama's education department.
Things are looking up and I should have a job locked up by next week! Now the question is: Is it the right job for me? I've spoken to enough teachers to realize that change is a part of any young teacher's career. Switching classrooms, switching grades or switching schools seems to come with the territory. Still, after two years I've gotten pretty comfortable teaching in a 4th grade general ed classroom. I'd hoped that whatever changes my new school will bring come September, my teaching position would remain a constant. When hunting for a job, is this attitude too stubborn? Should I take whatever I can get? If I hadn't been excessed, I'd likely still be facing some sort of change in teaching position next year anyway.
A day after mayoral control's expiration, the Board of Education has been resurrected, but there are no signs of life for community school boards. Instead, the Department of Education is planning to continue the Community Education Councils — despite the fact that they no longer legally exist. These parent councils replaced school boards in 2003 and, with the law's expiration, have been legally stripped of their authority and responsibilities. Chancellor Joel Klein, who was voted back into office unanimously today by the new Board of Education, sent a memo to principals today outlining his plans for the CECs. He said he is urging the CECs to continue meeting "at least until September when we hope to have more clarity." "If the Councils decide not to continue their work, we've asked them to notify us immediately," Klein wrote. The decision to create of a Board of Education and vote in a chancellor while leaving the rest of the power structure as it was under mayoral control has divided the system into old and new. The school system's top half is in compliance with pre-2002 law, while its lower quarters legally don't exist.
The speedy pace and the unnervingly scripted feeling of today's Board of Education meeting is captured in this video I took, which at four minutes documents almost half of the meeting. The video starts just as board members are voting for Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott as president. Walcott leads the rest of the meeting. After he takes over, you'll see the group vote to elect the Department of Education's chief lawyer, Michael Best, as its secretary and hear the resolution proposed that would make Joel Klein chancellor. We all know how that vote turned out: 7-0 in support of extending to Klein "all powers under law ... that may lawfully be delegated to the chancellor." The board members, from left to right: Jimmy Yan, Patricia Harris, Carlo Scissura, Walcott, Edward Burke, Edward Skyler, and Fernandez. Sitting just behind the board on their left (our right) was Klein, who looked on but never said a word during the proceedings or the press conference that followed. The full text of the resolution to rehire Klein is below: