location location

City trades one plan to re-locate disabled students for another

The city is swapping a plan that would have relocated nearly 100 disabled students to a new building for a plan to disperse the students into special education programs throughout the city.

Under the Department of Education’s original proposal, roughly two-thirds of the students at P.S. 138, a school for severely disabled students, would have moved to share space with the American Sign Language and English Secondary School, a middle and high school that gives admissions preference to deaf students.

That plan was scrapped after P.S. 138 parents and elected officials protested that the new site posed safety risks and that students would not be able to get around the school easily.

Some parents are saying that the department’s new plan is not much better.

In an email sent to principals this afternoon, less than two hours before a scheduled public hearing on the previous relocation plan, the DOE announced that rather than move P.S. 138 students to a new location as a group, the students would distribute them among open seats throughout the city.

Mirandy Rodriguez-Brown, the mother of a 7-year-old student with autism who attends P.S. 138, said that the city has yet to give a good reason to justify re-locating P.S. 138 students at all.

“These children don’t handle change well,” she said. “They need consistency, they need familiarity. Some children will take a year to handle these changes; some children will regress.”

DOE spokesman Danny Kanner said that the new plan will allow P.S. 138’s students to attend school either closer to their homes or in programs that are more well-suited to the students’ instructional needs.

The plan was originally developed as a way to ease overcrowding in the Chelsea school building that currently houses P.S. 11 and the Clinton School for Artists and Writers, a middle school. P.S. 138 students would have moved out of their shared space in P.S. 33 to make room for the Clinton School, which would then move into that building. The second arm of the plan, moving the Clinton School to P.S. 33, remains intact.

Susan Kramer, a Clinton School parent who heads its relocation committee, said that the DOE is moving too hastily to alleviate crowding in P.S. 11 without thoughtfully addressing the needs of other students in the building.

“DOE is just really scrambling to placate one school and they’re kind of hurting two other schools,” Kramer said.

Kramer and other representatives from the Clinton School met last week with Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott to present an alternate proposal that would allow P.S. 138 students to stay where they are, and allow the Clinton School to remain at P.S. 11 until the city finalizes a plan to give that school a new building. Under the parents’ plan, incoming kindergartners who would have been assigned to the overcrowded P.S. 11 would instead attend nearby P.S. 33.

Tonight’s public hearing was scheduled for public comment on the city’s original plan, in advance of a citywide school board vote scheduled for Wednesday. Because the plan was altered so soon before the hearing, Kanner said, the city decided to hold a question-and-answer session on the new proposal rather than cancel the hearing altogether.

A hearing on the issue has been scheduled for March 11, Kanner said, and a vote on the proposals has been postponed until the March Panel for Educational Policy meeting.

Here is the revised impact statement detailing the new plan for P.S. 138 students:

From: Panel for Educational Policy
Sent: Monday, February 22, 2010 5:11 PM
Subject: AMENDED PUBLIC NOTICE: PROPOSALS FOR SIGNIFICANT CHANGES IN SCHOOL UTILIZATION

Amended Notice

February 22, 2010

Joel I. Klein

Chancellor

Re-siting of P.S. 138 (75M138) from School Building M033

I.       Description of the subject, purpose and substance of the proposed item under consideration and identification of all substantial revisions to the item.

This is a revision to a proposal to relocate the majority of the P.S. 138 @ M033 (75M138, hereinafter referred to as “P.S. 138”) program from school building M033 to school building M047.  P.S. 138 is an existing District 75 school that is sited in multiple locations.  M033 is located at 281 Ninth Avenue, Manhattan in District 2.  M047 is located at 223 West 25th Street, Manhattan, also in District 2. Since the proposal was initially posted on January 8, 2010, the Department of Education (“DOE”) has received several comments from P.S. 138 parents and local elected officials raising concerns about the limited number of wheelchair students that could be accommodated at M047.  As a result of these concerns, the DOE has revised its proposal.

In the 2010-2011 school year, rather than move P.S. 138 to M047, P.S. 138 will relocate most of the students currently located in school building M033 to other existing P.S. 138 sites, new sites, or other existing District 75 sites.  These moves will locate students closer to their homes, in buildings with age-appropriate general education populations, and provide greater focus on these students’ Individualized Education Programs (“IEPs”) and instructional needs.[1]

Of the 100 students currently served at M033:

·         Twenty-seven students would remain at M033.  Twenty of these students have IEPs that call for integration in a hearing environment that does not use sign language.  Seven of these students are already enrolled in inclusion classes at P.S. 33.  This site will now serve only students with cochlear implants and students in full inclusion classes.

·         Thirty-nine students would move to the main site of P.S. 138, located at M030 at 144-176 East 138th Street in District 5.  Twenty-eight of these students reside in Districts 4, 5 or 6; the M030 location is significantly closer to their homes than M033.  This site serves multiply handicapped and students with autism.

·         Thirteen students would move to the new site for P.S. 276, the Battery Park City School, located at 55 Battery Place in District 2.  This is a newly constructed facility opening in September 2010.  P.S. 276 is a zoned school that will serve PK-2 and 6th grade in 2010, expanding grades each year until reaching full scale of PK- 8th grade.  The P.S. 138 students moving to this location live in Districts 1, 2, and 3, and are age appropriate for the grades served at PS 276 in 2010. The program to which these students will transfer will be a new site for P.S. 94, an existing District 75 school with multiple sites.  All students moving to this site will be in 6:1:1 classes and are typically students with autism.

·         Eleven students would move to the new East Side Middle school building located at 331 East 91st Street in District 2.   This is a newly constructed facility opening in September 2010 that will house East Side Middle School, a District 2 middle school choice school.  The P.S. 138 students proposed for this location are age appropriate for middle school.  All students moved to this site will be in 12:1:4 classes and are multiply handicapped.

·         Ten students who do not live in Manhattan would be provided seats at schools in their home boroughs.

The DOE has proposed that the space vacated by the P.S. 138 sections that would leave M033 be used to house M.S. 260 Clinton School for Writers and Artists (“Clinton”), a District 2 middle school serving grades 6-8.  This proposal is the subject of a separate educational impact statement that will be voted on by the Panel for Educational Policy at its March 22, 2010 meeting, along with this proposal.  As stated above, twenty-seven P.S. 138 students, whose needs call for integration in a hearing environment that does not use sign language, will remain at M033.

The move of most sections of P.S. 138 from M033 will address the need to create additional elementary capacity in the West Village and Chelsea areas of District 2, by allowing Clinton to move from its current location in the M011 building located at 320 West 21st Street to M033.  The Clinton move will allow P.S. 11, an elementary school serving zoned students and District 2 gifted and talented students, and also located in M011, to expand.  The Clinton move is temporary while the DOE and School Construction Authority (“SCA”) acquire or construct a new facility for Clinton.  Once Clinton moves to its permanent facility, the space at M033 would be used to address District 2 needs at that time.

II.        Summary of all public comments received following the initial public notice.

The DOE received four written comments and no oral comments on the proposal to move P.S. 138 to M047.  Three letters were from parents who opposed the move. One letter noted the following: (1) the move of P.S. 138 students is a violation of their right to a free and appropriate public education; (2) the M047 site has bussing problems and bringing children with disabilities to this site will cause longer waits and increase congestion;  and (3) M047 is an old building with old elevators that will cause long waits for children in wheelchairs, thus violating their rights.  The second letter was from a parent of an I.S. 47 student.  In her letter, the parent stated that the loss of space at I.S. 47 in M047 to accommodate P.S. 138would be detrimental to I.S. 47 students.  The parent stated that progress has been made for hearing and non-hearing students at I.S. 47 and the school should be allowed to continue and to grow.  The third letter was submitted by a parent asserting opposition to the proposal for moral, legal and personal reasons.  She noted that the students at P.S. 138 have legally binding IEPs as mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.  Also, the parent noted that the change could have an adverse effect on a child with autism.  She further noted that the M047 building is an inappropriate location for P.S. 138 students. The fourth letter was received from local elected officials, who felt strongly that M047 could not accommodate the additional wheelchair and mobility impaired students that were proposed to move into that location.

In addition to these written comments, thirteen speakers at the hearings for the Clinton relocation proposal on February 8 and 9, 2010 spoke about their concerns for the related P.S. 138 relocation proposal.  The comments included their concerns about the safety and accessibility of the M047 site for the proposed number of wheelchair students, as well as general concerns that the program would be located from a location where it has been successful for many years.

III.       Information regarding where the full text of the proposed item may be obtained.

The Revised Educational Impact Statement can be found on the Department of Education’s Web site:

http://schools.nyc.gov/AboutUs/leadership/PEP/publicnotice/Proposals_March_Vote

IV.  Submission of public comment.

Written comments can be sent to D02Proposals@schools.nyc.gov.

Oral comments can be left at 718-935-4415.

V.       The name, office, address, email and telephone number of the city district representative, knowledgeable on the item under consideration, from whom information may be obtained concerning the item

Name: Kim Wong

Office: Office of Portfolio Planning

Address: 52 Chambers St

Email: Portfolio@schools.nyc.gov

Phone: 212-374-5049

VI.       Date, time and place of joint public hearing for this proposal.

Please note that the hearing scheduled at 225 East 23rd Street (M047) on February 22nd at 6:30 has been cancelled. The hearing scheduled at 281 Ninth Avenue, Manhattan (M033) on February 22nd at 6:30 p.m. has also been cancelled; however, due to the late notice, it will be conducted as an information session and question and answer period for all interested parties and not as a joint public hearing on the revised proposal.

The date, time, and place of the joint public hearing for the revised proposal are as follows:

March 11 at 6:30pm

281 Ninth Avenue, Manhattan

VII.     Date, time and place of the PEP meeting at which the Board will vote on the proposed item.

March 22, 2010
6:00pm

The Michael J. Petrides School

715 Ocean Terrace, Staten Island

Re-siting of Clinton School for Writers and Artists (02M260) and Co-location with Existing Schools in School Building M033

I.    Description of the subject, purpose and substance of the proposed item under consideration.

In the 2010-2011 school year, Clinton School for Writers and Artists (02M260, “Clinton”), an existing school serving students in grades 6-8, will move from its current location in Community School District 2 (“District 2”) to school building M033 (hereinafter referred to as “M033”), located at 281 Ninth Avenue in Manhattan, also in District 2.  M033 currently houses P.S. 33 Chelsea Prep (02M033, “P.S. 33”) and P138M (75M138, “P.S. 138M @ M033”).  This will be a temporary location for Clinton while the Department of Education (“DOE”) and School Construction Authority (“SCA”) work to identify and acquire or construct a new facility for Clinton.

Clinton is currently housed at M011 (“M011”), located at 320 West 21st Street in District 2, where it is co-located with P.S. 11 William T. Harris (“P.S. 11”), a zoned elementary school serving grades PK-5.  P.S. 11 will continue at this location.  The capacity made available by the Clinton move will serve elementary students from the P.S. 11 zone.

The 2008-2009 target utilization rate of M033 was 75%, and its target capacity is 576.  In order to accommodate Clinton in M033, the DOE is also proposing to move most of the P.S. 138M @ M033 program currently located at M033 to other existing P.S. 138 sites and other District 75 locations.  This proposal is the subject of a separate educational impact statement and will be voted on by the Panel for Educational Policy (“PEP”) at its March 22, 2010 meeting, along with this proposal.  P.S. 138M @ M033 serves children with hearing disabilities, autism or multiple handicaps.  Two classrooms of P.S. 138M @ M033 will remain at M033; these classes serve children with cochlear implants, whose Individual Education Plans call for integration in a hearing school environment that does not use sign language. M033 has sufficient space for Clinton, P.S. 33, and the two remaining P.S. 138M @ M033 classrooms to operate at full organizational capacity.

The move of Clinton will address the need to create space for growth in elementary school demand in District 2 by allowing P.S. 11 to expand. In M033, Clinton will expand enrollment by one section.

This amendment reflects a new date for the PEP vote on this proposal.  The proposal was originally scheduled to be voted on by the PEP at its February 24, 2010 meeting.  However, because this proposal is connected to the DOE’s proposal to re-site most of the P.S. 138 @ M033 program and the DOE has substantially revised that proposal, both proposals will now be presented to the PEP for a vote at its March 22, 2010 meeting.

II.    Information regarding where the full text of the proposed item may be obtained.

The Amended Educational Impact Statement can be found on the Department of Education’s Web site:

http://schools.nyc.gov/AboutUs/leadership/PEP/publicnotice/Proposals_March_Vote

III.  Submission of public comment.

Written comments can be sent to D02Proposals@schools.nyc.gov.

Oral comments can be left at 718-935-4415.

IV.      The name, office, address, email and telephone number of the city district representative, knowledgeable on the item under consideration, from whom information may be obtained concerning the item

Name: Kim Wong

Office: Office of Portfolio Planning

Address: 52 Chambers St

Email: Portfolio@schools.nyc.gov

Phone: 212-374-5049

V.        Date, time and place of joint public hearing for this proposal.

Two joint public hearings previously took place for this proposal:

February 9 at 6:30pm

320 West 21st Street, Manhattan

and

February 8 at 6:30pm

281 Ninth Avenue, Manhattan

VI.       Date, time and place of the PEP meeting at which the Board will vote on the proposed item.

March 22, 2010
6:00pm

The Michael J. Petrides School

715 Ocean Terrace, Staten Island

[1]   Parents of those P.S. 138M @ M033 students who will be moving from M033 retain all rights afforded to them under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and state law.

first steps

Superintendent León secures leadership team, navigates evolving relationship with board

PHOTO: Patrick Wall
Superintendent Roger León at Tuesday's school board meeting.

As Newark’s new superintendent prepares for the coming academic year, the school board approved the final members of his leadership team Tuesday and began piecing together a roadmap to guide his work.

The board confirmed three assistant superintendents chosen by Superintendent Roger León: Jose Fuentes, the principal of First Avenue School in the North Ward; Sandra Rodriguez, a Hoboken principal who previously oversaw Newark Public Schools’ early childhood office; and Mario Santos, principal of East Side High School in the East Ward. They join three other assistant superintendents León selected for his team, along with a deputy superintendent, chief of staff, and several other officials.

The three assistant superintendents confirmed Tuesday had first come before the board in June, but at that time none of them secured enough votes to be approved. During last month’s meeting, the board assented to several of León’s leadership picks and to his decision to remove many people from the district’s central office, but it also blocked him from ousting several people.

This week, Board Chair Josephine Garcia declined to comment on the board’s reversal, and León did not respond to a request for comment.

What is clear is that the board and León are still navigating their relationship.

In February, the board regained local control of the district 22 years after the state seized control of the district due to poor performance and mismanagement. The return to local control put the board back in charge of setting district policy and hiring the superintendent, who previously answered only to the state. Still, the superintendent, not the board, is responsible for overseeing the district’s day-to-day operations.

During a board discussion Tuesday, Garcia hinted at that delicate balance of power.

“Now that we’re board members, we want to make sure that, of course, yes, we’re going to have input and implementation,” but that they don’t overstep their authority, she said.

Under state rules, the board is expected to develop district goals and policies, which the superintendent is responsible for acting on. But León — a former principal who spent the past decade serving as an assistant superintendent — has his own vision for the district, which he hopes to convince the board to support, he said in a recent interview on NJTV.

“It’s my responsibility as the new superintendent of schools to compel them to assist the district moving in the direction that I see as appropriate,” he said.

Another matter still being ironed out by the board and superintendent is communication.

León did not notify the full board before moving to force out 31 district officials and administrators, which upset some members. And he told charter school leaders in a closed-door meeting that he plans to keep intact the single enrollment system for district and charter schools — a controversial policy the board is still reviewing.

The district has yet to make a formal announcement about the staff shake-up, including the appointment of León’s new leadership team. And when the board voted on the new assistant superintendents Tuesday, it used only the appointed officials’ initials — not their full names. However, board member Leah Owens stated the officials’ full names when casting her vote.

The full names, titles and salaries of public employees are a matter of public record under state law.

Earlier, board member Yambeli Gomez had proposed improved communication as a goal for the board.

“Not only communication within the board and with the superintendent,” she said, “but also communication with the public in a way that’s more organized.”

The board spent much of Tuesday’s meeting brainstorming priorities for the district.

Members offered a grab bag of ideas, which were written on poster paper. Under the heading “student achievement,” they listed literacy, absenteeism, civics courses, vocational programs, and teacher quality, among other topics. Under other “focus areas,” members suggested classroom materials, parent involvement, and the arts.

Before the school year begins in September, León is tasked with shaping the ideas on that poster paper into specific goals and an action plan.

After the meeting, education activist Wilhelmina Holder said she hopes the board will focus its attention on a few key priorities.

“There was too much of a laundry list,” she said.

early dismissals

Top Newark school officials ousted in leadership shake-up as new superintendent prepares to take over

PHOTO: Patrick Wall
Incoming Newark Public Schools Superintendent Roger León

Several top Newark school officials were given the option Friday to resign or face termination, in what appeared to be an early move by incoming Superintendent Roger León to overhaul the district’s leadership.

The shake-up includes top officials such as the chief academic officer and the head of the district’s controversial enrollment system, as well as lower-level administrators — 31 people in total, according to documents and district employees briefed on the overhaul. Most of the officials were hired or promoted by the previous two state-appointed superintendents, Cami Anderson and Christopher Cerf, a sign that León wants to steer the district in a new direction now that it has returned to local control.

The officials were given the option to resign by Tuesday and accept buyouts or face the prospect of being fired by the school board at its meeting that evening. The buyouts offer a financial incentive to those who resign voluntarily on top of any severance included in their contracts. In exchange for accepting the buyouts, the officials must sign confidentiality agreements and waive their right to sue the district.

Earlier this week, León submitted a list of his choices to replace the ousted cabinet-level officials, which the board must approve at its Tuesday meeting. It’s not clear whether he has people lined up to fill the less-senior positions.

It’s customary for incoming superintendents to appoint new cabinet members and reorganize the district’s leadership structure, which usually entails replacing some personnel. However, many staffers were caught off guard by Friday’s dismissals since León has given little indication of how he plans to restructure the central office — and he does not officially take the reins of the district until July 1.

A district spokeswoman and the school board chair did not immediately respond to emails on Friday about the shake-up.

Some staffers speculated Friday that the buyout offers were a way for León to replace the district’s leadership without securing the school board’s approval because, unlike with terminations, the board does not need to sign off on resignations. However, it’s possible the board may have to okay any buyout payments. And it could also be the case that the buyouts were primarily intended to help shield the district from legal challenges to the dismissals.

León was not present when the staffers learned Friday afternoon that they were being let go, the employees said. Instead, the interim superintendent, Robert Gregory, and other top officials broke the news, which left some stunned personnel crying and packing their belongings into boxes. They received official separation letters by email later that day.

The people being ousted include Chief Academic Officer Brad Haggerty and Gabrielle Ramos-Solomon, who oversees enrollment. Also included are top officials in the curriculum, early childhood, and finance divisions, among others, according to a list obtained by Chalkbeat.

In addition to the 31 being pushed out, several assistant superintendents are being demoted but will remain in the district, according to the district employees.

There was concern among some officials Friday about whether the turnover would disrupt planning for the coming school year.

“I don’t know how we’re going to open smoothly with cuts this deep,” one of the employees said. “Little to no communication was provided to the teams about what these cuts mean for the many employees who remain in their roles and need leadership guidance and direction Monday morning.”