Kim Sweet Special education advocates are planning to criticize the Department of Education's choice of official to spearhead a comprehensive review of special education in the city schools. Kim Sweet, the executive director of Advocates for Children of New York (where I used to work when I wrote for Insideschools), told me this morning that she's worried about what the review could mean for special education services, especially in light of the current economic conditions. One major concern is that Garth Harries, who has been appointed to conduct the review, doesn't have experience in special education. "The special education system is a complex system that to address a diverse and complicated set of student needs," Sweet told me. "Garth Harries unfortunately does not have the experience to make decisions about it in an intelligent and sensitive way." She said the ARISE Coalition, which advocates for children with special needs, will speak out against Harries' appointment. Another issue, Sweet said, is that given the current budget shortfall, the department might be taking a hard look at special education simply to save money.
An advertisement for Learn NY that appeared on the New York Times' web site yesterday. Learn NY, the nonprofit group lobbying to preserve mayoral control, has added a fourth member to its board: Rossana Rosado, the publisher of the Spanish-language daily newspaper El Diario/La Prensa. That's good news for Learn NY, which said months ago it wanted to recruit more board members but had instead so far stuck to its original group of three (Geoffrey Canada, CEO of the Harlem Children's Zone, Sister Paulette LoMonaco of Good Shepherd Services, and the Reverend Calvin Butts III, a Baptist minister in Harlem). The appointment could help Learn NY reach out to Latino families and lawmakers (although I can think of at least one who almost certainly won't be persuaded). The organization's major goal right now is to reach out to parents, a push that already includes online advertisements at the New York Times' web site (see graphic). Rosado's appointment to the board raises questions about El Diario's coverage of mayoral control and the city schools. It isn't the first time a major newspaper publisher has taken a stance. Mort Zuckerman, who publishes the Daily News and my old employer, U.S. News & World Report, is on the board of the Fund for Public Schools. Rosado's statement about why she is joining Learn NY is after the jump:
Remember that reorganization? Another part of it is that a former McKinsey consultant with no experience in special education is now launching a total review of the Department of Education's special education services. Garth Harries has been tasked with figuring out "how to clear up all the clutter" in the hard-to-navigate special education system as part of the department's ongoing reorganization, which is intended to cut costs, DOE spokesman David Cantor told me. Harries, currently the head of the DOE's Office of Portfolio Development, will begin his new position in a matter of weeks, Cantor said. "He's going to basically try to make our entire provision of special education better, more effective, and more efficient." Harries, who is a lawyer, came to the DOE from McKinsey & Company, the consulting firm. "He does not have credentials in special education," Cantor said. "What he is is an unusually talented analyst and mechanic of large operations." "I think I have a pretty good reputation for effective problem-solving and getting things done and treating people fairly," Harries told me this evening. About special education, he said, "I think it's an area where I can help. I have a lot to learn, obviously."