Three questions that will dominate this year's school news

To some, it may seem that there’s no way this year can be more exciting than 2008, with its protracted campaigns and historic presidential election. But with questions about governance, leadership, and funding looming large, 2009 promises to be quite the year in the New York City education world.

Here are three big questions that will be answered, at least in part, in the next 12 months:

  • What will happen to mayoral control? The law giving New York City’s mayor full control of the schools expires at the end of June. Before then, the State Assembly must decide whether to renew the law, alter it, or let the city’s schools revert back to the way they were organized before 2002.
  • Few in the city are saying that the law should simply be permitted to expire. Many local advocates are instead calling for changes to the law that ensure parent involvement and create an impartial entity to review Department of Education data. State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said recently that he would vote to renew mayoral control if the new law includes changes like these. But some powerful people are lining up behind the mayor’s opposition to any changes, including the editorial board of the Daily News and wealthy New Yorkers who are planning to spend $20 million to support a public relations campaign in favor of mayoral control.

    Assembly members will take public criticism and the city schools’ performance into account when they cast their votes. But politics will also play a role. This brings us to the second question:

  • Is Mayor Bloomberg going to stay or go? This fall, the mayor won the right to run for a third term. So far Bloomberg hasn’t said for sure whether he’ll run, or what party he would represent if he does, but his advisers say his campaign could cost him as much as $100 million, a sum that any opponent would have a hard time matching. That hasn’t stopped a handful of public officials from declaring their intention to run for the office, including Anthony Weiner, a state congressman from Brooklyn and Queens who supports mayoral control, and Comptroller William Thompson, who has been a vocal critic of the DOE.
  • If Bloomberg runs again and is elected, it stands to reason that the city’s school reform agenda of the last seven years will persist at least through 2013. But if he decides to move on, or if he’s defeated, a new mayor will move into City Hall, and a new chancellor could take office inside Tweed Courthouse. In that case, we could see substantial changes in the school system as soon as the beginning of 2010.

  • How will the dismal budget situation affect the city’s schools? No matter who the mayor is and how the schools are run, the city needs to be able to fund the school system. Right now, the economic picture just keeps looking worse and worse. The governor’s proposed state budget cuts more than $600 million from the city schools, and the mayor has called for sizable city cuts as well.  The mayor has said that budget cuts of the magnitude proposed would hit the classroom hard. Will the schools see a return to the dark days of the 1970s, when teachers were laid off and classes swelled in size? Or will they weather the downturn and emerge relatively unscathed? Only time can tell.

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.