Education officials rethinking how schools get support, again

Call it early spring cleaning: the city’s Department of Education is planning its third official reorganization of how schools receive support services in eight years.

Support organization leaders say the new plan involves decentralizing the city’s large service centers, which offer schools assistance with writing their budgets and handling the mountains of paperwork that pile up. Since 2007, a Brooklyn principal would call the Brooklyn Integrated Service Center for help with these tasks; now, she’ll turn to a small group that’s assigned to work with her school through her support organization.

The groups, called Children First Networks, are part of a model that has been quietly piloted for several years by Eric Nadelstern, the DOE’s chief schools officer. About 300 schools are already part of the CFNs, an expansion that took place last year and is now being extended to all of the city’s public schools. The networks are small — each has a staff of 13 staff members — and are meant to personalize the way schools receive non-academic, logistical support.

Under the new plan, all schools will bypass the ISCs and go straight to the smaller networks, putting the ISCs out of business. The CFNs will be aligned with existing support organizations so that, for example, a school in the New Visions for Public Schools support organization will be paired with one of the organization’s several CFNs, each of which will focus on only about 25 schools.

The DOE refused to comment on the changes, which it plans to announce officially later this week.

Michael Mulgrew, the president of the city’s teachers union, said the city’s schools have seen enough turmoil in the last few years and this latest change would only create confusion.

“At this point the schools feel completely isolated and unsupported,” Mulgrew said.

“With the ISCs, at least there are general places where you know you’re going to get the safety, the special education, the back office stuff that you need. Now you’re telling me you’re going to spread that among how many CFN networks, do you really think they have the capacity to deal with all these issues?” he said.

Sy Fliegel, president of the Center for Educational Innovation-Public Education Association, which has already had a CFN for a year, said the piloted reorganization had earned positive reviews from the principals he works with.

“It’s not like calling down to Tweed where you don’t know who you’re getting,” Fliegel said. “And principals seem to be much happier with it.”

The Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, the union that represents principals and the executive administrators who run each of the ISCs, is worried that the reorganization could cost ISC staff members their jobs.

A spokeswoman for CSA, Chiara Coletti, said the CFNs will be staffed by former ISC members, who will have to apply with support organizations for jobs with their CFNs.

Anita Batisti, who runs Fordham University’s support organization, said support organization leaders are still waiting to hear the details of exactly how the city is redrawing its bureaucratic lines.

When Bloomberg first took office, 32 individual district offices — plus separate offices for high schools, alternative schools, and special education schools — managed school operations. During Chancellor Joel Klein’s first reorganization of the school system, those districts were replaced by six offices serving 10 regions. In 2006, Klein revamped the structure again, creating a single Integrated Service Center with branches each of the five boroughs. During the 2006 reorganization, instructional services were also relocated, to a group of support organizations from which principals now choose one. Depending on who you ask, the third unofficial reorganization occurred last year when the city expanded the Children First Network pilot program from 90 schools to 300.

“It feels a little bit like we’re going full circle,” Coletti said. “Now we’ll have networks that are like a district system. The difference is the old district system was geographic, which was quite healthy,” she said.

on the run

‘Sex and the City’ star and public schools advocate Cynthia Nixon launches bid for N.Y. governor

Cynthia Nixon on Monday announced her long-anticipated run for New York governor.

Actress and public schools advocate Cynthia Nixon announced Monday that she’s running for governor of New York, ending months of speculation and launching a campaign that will likely spotlight education.

Nixon, who starred as Miranda in the TV series “Sex and the City,” will face New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in September’s Democratic primary.

Nixon has been active in New York education circles for more than a decade. She served as a  longtime spokeswoman for the Alliance for Quality Education, a union-backed advocacy organization. Though Nixon will step down from that role, according to a campaign spokeswoman, education promises to be a centerpiece of her campaign.

In a campaign kickoff video posted to Twitter, Nixon calls herself “a proud public school graduate, and a prouder public school parent.” Nixon has three children.

“I was given chances I just don’t see for most of New York’s kids today,” she says.

Nixon’s advocacy began when her oldest child started school, which was around the same time the recession wreaked havoc on education budgets. She has slammed Gov. Cuomo for his spending on education during his two terms in office, and she has campaigned for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

In 2008, she stepped into an emotional fight on the Upper West Side over a plan to deal with overcrowding and segregation that would have impacted her daughter’s school. In a video of brief remarks during a public meeting where the plan was discussed, Nixon is shouted down as she claims the proposal would lead to a “de facto segregated” school building.

Nixon faces steep competition in her first run for office. She is up against an incumbent governor who has amassed a $30 million war chest, according to the New York Times. If elected, she would be the first woman and the first openly gay governor in the state.

cooling off

New York City charter leader Eva Moskowitz says Betsy DeVos is not ‘ready for prime time’

PHOTO: Chalkbeat
Success Academy CEO and founder Eva Moskowitz seemed to be cooling her support for U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

In New York City, Eva Moskowitz has been a lone voice of support for the controversial U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. But even Moskowitz appears to be cooling on the secretary following an embarrassing interview.

“I believe her heart is in the right place,” Moskowitz, founder and CEO of Success Academy, said of DeVos at an unrelated press conference. “But as the recent interviews indicate, I don’t believe she’s ready for primetime in terms of answering all of the complex questions that need to be answered on the topic of public education and choice.”

That is an apparent reference to DeVos’s roundly criticized appearance on 60 Minutes, which recently aired a 30-minute segment in which the secretary admits she hasn’t visited struggling schools in her tenure. Even advocates of school choice, DeVos’s signature issue, called her performance an “embarrassment,” and “Saturday Night Live” poked fun at her.  

Moskowitz’s comments are an about-face from when the education secretary was first appointed. While the rest of the New York City charter school community was mostly quiet after DeVos was tapped for the position, Moskowitz was the exception, tweeting that she was “thrilled.” She doubled-down on her support months later in an interview with Chalkbeat.

“I believe that education reform has to be a bipartisan issue,” she said.

During Monday’s press conference, which Success Academy officials called to push the city for more space for its growing network, Moskowitz also denied rumors, fueled by a tweet from AFT President Randi Weingarten, that Success officials had recently met with members of the Trump administration.

Shortly after the election, Moskowitz met with Trump amid speculation she was being considered for the education secretary position. This time around, she said it was “untrue” that any visits had taken place.

“You all know that a while back, I was asked to meet with the president-elect. I thought it was important to take his call,” she said. “I was troubled at the time by the Trump administration. I’m even more troubled now. And so, there has been no such meeting.”