By the numbers

Here are all of the co-locations that de Blasio could soon cancel

When the Panel for Educational Policy approved the co-location of Success Academy New York 4 with Brooklyn’s J.H.S. 78 last October, parents said they were upset but confident that Mayor Bill de Blasio would kill the plan.

“We’ll be back in January with the new mayor,” J.H.S. 78 parent Thomas Callahan said then.

It’s a few months later than Callahan anticipated, but the city soon find out if he was correct. Decisions about that and dozens of other pending school changes are expected to be announced soon, following de Blasio’s and Chancellor Carmen Fariña’s promises that plans approved at the end of the Bloomberg administration would be subject to a full review.

Officials won’t say exactly what window of the Bloomberg administration’s recent decisions they’re examining, so we’ve gathered them all in one place. You can check out the details in this spreadsheet, which we’ve also embedded below.

All in all, the Panel for Educational Policy has approved more than 60 space plans for 2014-15 and five for 2015-16.

Where might the changes come? Here are the most likely possibilities, given the de Blasio administration’s emphasis on maintaining stability for families — and keeping Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz on the defensive.

  • Twenty-seven of the remaining proposals focus on plans for charter schools. While the de Blasio administration has said charter schools should not be entitled to free space in public buildings the way that they essentially were under Bloomberg, it’s unlikely that it would take a sweeping approach to rolling back charter school proposals. Both de Blasio and Fariña have said repeatedly that charter schools vary in their quality and commitment to serve all students.
  • De Blasio has reserved special scorn for Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academies, which are the focus of 10 of the recently approved plans, including nine new schools: seven elementary, two middle schools, and one high school. She told board members this week she thinks a few of those plans will be rolled back.
  • Five of the proposals would put elementary and high school students in the same building, an arrangement to which parents in particular tend to object out of safety concerns. (In some of those buildings, the arrangement is already in place.) Four of the new elementary-high school mashups would involve charter schools managed by networks that would likely have to pay rent under de Blasio’s proposal: Success Academy, KIPP, and Achievement First.
  • Critics of the de Blasio administration’s promise to reevaluate co-location plans say families are already counting on the new school options for their children. But at more than half of the schools with plans on the table, no students currently expect to attend. At least 35 schools among those affected by the plans have neither admitted students for this fall nor have any students operating under the presumption that they will be able to graduate from one school and start the next grade at the new, connected school.
  • Seven of the proposals would end with school buildings holding a 100 percent or more of the students they are designed for, according to the Department of Education’s own numbers. Packing buildings to — or past — their gills would work against the de Blasio administration’s stated aim to to reduce overcrowding and help schools cut class size. This week, the Department of Education also announced a plan to overhaul the way available space is calculated, suggesting that the new administration thinks the old one’s crowding estimates might be conservative.
  • Seven of the plans drew unusually sharp public criticism, with more than 300 people turning out for their joint public hearings last year. At each of those hearings, the vast majority of public comment was critical. At one hearing, for the proposed co-location of Success Academy – New York 4, more than 700 people turned out to express their concerns. If the de Blasio administration is serious about responding to public feedback, rolling back these proposals would be a way to show it.
  • Co-location plans for at least two of schools (Success Academy – New York 5 and a new district middle school in District 18 in Brooklyn) earned special censure at public hearings from emissaries of de Blasio himself. Rolling those plans back would allow him to make good on his stances as the city’s public advocate.
  • Of the 66 plans approved for this year or next, 61 were approved in June 2013 or later. Forty-eight were approved in or after October 2013. It’s possible that de Blasio will only revisit proposals made after a certain point, though he has not indicated whether that is the case.
  • Five of the plans would not take effect until September 2015 — nearly two years after they were first approved. Scrapping these plans now and reevaluating them later in the year would cost the de Blasio administration little.
  • While de Blasio has been critical of the Bloomberg administration’s emphasis on closing and co-locating schools, he has praised the new P-TECH, the high school with a six-year program that partners with CUNY and IBM and allows students to earn an associate’s degree. Two new high schools would follow the P-TECH model, making a change less likely—though there was still significant pushback from the schools that will be co-located with the new ones.
  • More generally, nine of the plans are for new high schools operated by the Department of Education. The city’s regular high school admissions process wraps up with notifications in the next two weeks, so if any changes are going to be made, that has to happen soon.

You can see all of the details for every plan that the de Blasio administration could possibly be reconsidering in our chart below. A few additional notes: We’ve excluded the few plans on the agenda for this March, since the de Blasio administration has made its plans for those schools clear. We also excluded plans approved last year that already went into place for the 2013-14 school year and plans that were taken off the table by the schools themselves after being approved. Also unlikely to be revisited, though we’ve included them here, are five proposals to cut grades and one proposal to add grades in a school with its own building, since those have been uncontroversial and don’t impact other schools. Did we mis-tally or miss something altogether? Let us know at

End of an era

Longtime deputy chancellor Kathleen Grimm to retire

PHOTO: Patrick Wall
Department of Education Deputy Chancellor Kathleen Grimm (left) at a City Council hearing to discuss the department's five-year capital plan in March 2014.

Kathleen Grimm, the deputy chancellor for operations and a fixture in the Department of Education under four chancellors, is stepping down, Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced Wednesday.

Grimm oversaw a sprawling portion of the department, including the offices overseeing safety, school support, school food, athletics, space planning, enrollment, human resources, and construction. The only official to have remained in a top post at Tweed since the beginning of the Bloomberg era, Grimm saw her responsibilities expand even further under Fariña, who moved some offices under Grimm when she shrunk the department’s cabinet.

“It is with deep personal regret that I announce a leave pending retirement of Deputy Chancellor Kathleen Grimm, an esteemed colleague who has worked tirelessly to create safe, nurturing environments in which all of our students can learn and thrive,” Fariña said in an email to department staff members.

Grimm, a tax lawyer, was brought on in 2002 for her budgeting and finance expertise and experience in navigating city and state bureaucracy. She had previously served in the state comptroller’s office and the city finance department.

Over her 14-year career at the Department of Education, Grimm preferred to stay behind the scenes, but was thrust into the spotlight when changes to school bus routes, budget cuts, and space planning made headlines.

Her oversight of the city’s transportation of students meant she faced fierce criticism when repeated changes to bus routes angered parents and City Council members. Her oversight of the capital budget and the Blue Book, which sets guidelines for school space use, also made her a frequent target of class-size reduction advocates, who often said the city’s calculations did not reflect reality.

But Grimm was revered within the department for her calm under pressure. She frequently defended the school system in front of the City Council, bearing the brunt of then-education committee chair Eva Moskowitz’s relentless criticism of the city’s toilet-paper offerings in 2004 and, more recently, testifying at hearings on toxic lighting fixtures and school overcrowding.

“Cool and effective, Kathleen stayed for the full twelve years of the Bloomberg administration and did a tough, unglamorous job with distinction,” Klein wrote of Grimm in his memoir “Lessons of Hope.”

On Wednesday, Fariña offered her own praise. “As a senior member of my leadership team, Deputy Chancellor Grimm has provided a strong foundation for our most critical initiatives, including Pre-K for All, Community Schools, and our expanded school support and safety services,” she said.

Grimm’s chief of staff Elizabeth Rose will take over as interim acting deputy chancellor during a search for Grimm’s replacement, Fariña said.

year in review

In first year as chancellor, Fariña counts on fellow educators to drive changes

PHOTO: Stephanie Snyder
Chancellor Carmen Fariña speaks to superintendents and principals overseeing the city's designated renewal schools.

To understand how things have changed since Carmen Fariña became schools chancellor, consider where she has chosen to be on roughly 200 occasions this year, often five times per week: in schools.

She uses the hour-long visits to find model schools that other educators can tour and to size up principals, noting whether teachers seem surprised to see their bosses (a sign they aren’t poking into classrooms enough) and if the principals bring any deputies along for the tours (a hint they know how to delegate). She inspects students’ writing and asks the principal to show her a strong teacher in action and a weak one.

Twelve months into her stint leading the nation’s largest school system, Fariña’s attention to such details seems misplaced to some critics, who worry that it comes at the expense of big-picture thinking and suggests a shift away from the greater autonomy that principals gained under the previous administration.

But to her many admirers, the visits reflect a belief that even in a system of 1.1 million students and 75,000 or so teachers, change can happen school by school and classroom by classroom when educators are empowered, without the seismic policy shakeups that seemed to occur routinely under her recent predecessors. As Fariña, who has spent nearly half a century working in schools, likes to say, “The answers are in the classroom.” In other words, this is educator-driven education reform.

“There’s a sense,” said Alison Coviello, principal of P.S. 154 in the Bronx, “that we’re all in this together.”

When Mayor Bill de Blasio pulled Fariña from semi-retirement last January, she decided that she would have to roll back the Bloomberg-era policies she disagreed with even as she put her own into place: To “undo while [she’s] doing,” as she told Chalkbeat earlier this year.

And that’s just what she’s done. She downsized the office that helped create new schools — a signature Bloomberg initiative — while resurrecting the department devoted to teacher training. She re-empowered superintendents, who were marginalized under Bloomberg, and insisted that would-be principals and superintendents both spend more years in schools (a rejection of the Bloombergian idea that talent trumps experience). And she axed the Bloomberg policies that tied student promotion to test scores and assigned schools letter grades as she launched her own signature program, which sends educators to visit successful schools to pick up ideas.

That program, called Learning Partners, exemplifies Fariña’s approach. It is educator-led, cooperative, and subtle, allowing Fariña to spread her ideas through proxies rather than edicts.

“We have gotten more schools to change practices not by mandating, but by collaborating,” she said in an interview Monday. “I could have said across the board, ‘Every middle school needs to do X, Y and Z.’ And we didn’t do that.”

She also helped forge new contracts with the principals and the teachers unions, which had given up on negotiating with the previous administration. The teachers got a big payout in the contract (though not big enough to satisfy everyone), while Fariña was able to embed time for training and interacting with parents into teachers’ weekly schedules (at the cost of student-tutoring time, which was repurposed). Cynics charged that the city secured the contracts by giving into most of the unions’ demands, but Fariña argues that they were the product of her collaborative approach.

“What we got out of those contracts,” she said, “probably would not have been possible without that kind of partnership.”

She also helped the mayor fulfill his promise to get 53,000 four-year-olds into classrooms.

“How could I forget?” Fariña said. “Pre-K!”

For all that she has already done and undone, Fariña has a big year ahead of her. On Monday, she ticked off a few of the biggest items on her to-do list.

First, she must help de Blasio add the 20,000 additional pre-kindergarten seats he has promised, even as charter schools demand more space of their own. Then, she must turn two of his most ambitious plans into reality: to convert nearly 130 schools into service hubs for students and their families, and to turn around more than 90 low-performing schools.

That last task will be especially daunting. Rather than shut down chronically underachieving schools or replace their staffs, Fariña has proposed lifting them up through a mix of supports for students and coaching for educators. That is a big gamble, which Fariña made clear at a meeting Monday with the leaders of those struggling schools.

“I’m holding you even more accountable,” she told the principals. “Because I went out on a limb, as did Mayor de Blasio, and said, ‘We’re not closing schools. We’re giving everybody a second chance.’”