Newsroom

Today’s Department of Education press release, presented without comment

PHOTO: TPurk/Flickr

Okay, three comments. One: Yes, it does make sense that Susan Sarandon is in this press release.

Two: The schools selected to add new sports teams aren’t exactly ones with a dearth of athletic options in the first place.

Three: The density of clever puns in this press release must explain why the Department of Education did not have time to let reporters know about Chancellor Carmen Fariña’s public meeting with parents in Brooklyn tonight — right?

Without further ado:

CHANCELLOR CARMEN FARIÑA AND ACTRESS SUSAN SARANDON ANNOUNCE ADDITION OF TABLE TENNIS AND BADMINTON VARSITY SPORT TO PUBLIC SCHOOLS ATHLETIC LEAGUE 

New Sports Join cricket, Double Dutch and Rugby, Which Were Added in the Last Five Years

NEW YORK — Chancellor Carmen Fariña, actress Susan Sarandon and school officials are bringing a new spin to New York City’s Public Schools Athletic League (PSAL) with the announcement of varsity sport additions of table tennis and badminton. The new sports generated quite a racket among students eager to compete, and schools officials expect the sports to net significant interest and participation in the PSAL league among high school students. Other sports added to the PSAL in the past five years include cricket, Double Dutch and rugby. The PSAL encompasses competitive sports for high school students in public schools.

“We are thrilled to serve students’ interests in table tennis and badminton, which will complement the traditional sports offered in City’s schools, such as basketball and football, and other more recent additions like cricket,” Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña said. “These exciting athletics are a smash hit among students and will expand their skills and opportunities both inside and outside the classroom.”

“We applaud the NYC Department of Education’s decision to add table tennis as a new varsity sport in New York City public schools and are pleased the PSAL is working with outside organizations, like American Youth Table Tennis Organization to bring high quality equipment and sport know-how for the benefit of all participating students,” said actress Susan Sarandon. “Table tennis improves the mind and the body with little physical risk or expense – and you can play for the rest of your life unlike other sports.”

Table tennis in season in New York City public schools began on March 3 and ends June 1. It is played with a minimum of seven student-athletes per team with three designated as singles players, two for doubles and one optional exhibition match for up to two additional players. A match is played best three of five games, and a game is played to 11 points and must be won by a margin of at least two points.

For badminton, the season began on March 3 and ends June 7. It is played with a minimum of seven student-athletes per team with three designated as singles players, two for doubles and one optional exhibition match for up to two additional players. A match is played best two out of three games, and a game is played to 21 points and must be won by a margin of at least two points.

“USA Badminton is very pleased to partner with the New York School System in the establishment of the newly formed badminton program,” said USA Badminton CEO Dan Cloppas. “We believe the students of New York City will enjoy learning the sport of badminton which is one of the most played sports in the world and an activity that can be played for a lifetime. This program could be the catalyst that produces the first United States Olympic champion in the sport. We certainly are proud to be a part of assisting in this endeavor.”

More than 30,000 student athletes participate in the PSAL, with many playing multiple sports.  In addition, more than 200 schools are participating in the PSAL, competing in 28 varsity sports and nine junior varsity sports, represented by more than 2,400 teams.

“The PSAL offers students a variety of sports to participate in to enrich their high school experience,” Deputy Chancellor for Operations Kathleen Grimm said. “We are committed to providing our students with opportunities to excel in the classroom as well as the athletic field.”

Eric Goldstein, chief executive for School Support Services who oversees the PSAL, said, “We are offering athletic programs that appeal to students who may not want to go out for the traditional sports. We found a great deal of interest and are excited about adding these sports to the PSAL.”

Donald Douglas, PSAL executive director, said, “We want students to enjoy a variety of different sports while in high school and these two spark the interest of many of our students. This is bound to be an exciting season.”

The debut season for table tennis includes the following schools:

Boys Division

Bronx Science High School
Lehman Educational Campus
Millennium High School
Cardozo High School
Flushing High School
Townsend Harris High School
Stuyvesant High School
Brooklyn Technical High School
FDR High School Campus
Acorn Community High School
McKee/Staten Island Technical High Schools
Tottenville High School

Girls Division

Bronx Science High School
Lehman High School Campus
Millennium High School
Cardozo High School
Flushing High School
Townsend Harris High School
Stuyvesant High School
Brooklyn Technical High School
FDR High School Campus
James Madison High School
McKee/Staten Island Technical High Schools
Tottenville High School

The debut season for badminton includes the following schools:

Boys Division

Bronx Science
Martin Luther King Jr. High School Campus
Flushing International
Townsend Harris
Stuyvesant High School
Brooklyn Technical High School
FDR High School Campus
Seward Park Educational Campus
John Dewey High School Campus
James Madison High School
Flushing High School

Girls Division

Bronx Science
Martin Luther King Jr. High School Campus
Flushing International
Flushing High School
Townsend Harris High School
Stuyvesant High School
Brooklyn Technical High School
FDR High School Campus
John Dewey High School Campus
Seward Park Educational Campus
Tottenville High School

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.”