Mayoral hopefuls, from left to right, Christine Quinn, Bill Thompson, John Liu, Tom Allon and Bill De Blasio, discuss city education policies.
When the five leading mayoral candidates were asked on Monday how they would select the next schools chancellor at a forum on city education policy, the presumed longshot had the most specific answer.
Newspaper publisher Tom Allon, who recently switched his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican, was the only candidate to name names — and his shortlist contained an eclectic mix of people.
He started with Eric Nadelstern, a former Department of Education deputy who is bullish on school closures and other Bloomberg administration policies, then moved to Hunter College President Jennifer Raab before naming Linda Darling-Hammond, a Stanford University education professor who has been critical of policies favored by the Bloomberg administration. To round out his list, he named John White, who became Louisiana's school superintendent not long after leaving the city Department of Education in 2011.
Allon's list elicited laugher and whoops of surprise from the audience, as well as a disapproving remark from Comptroller John Liu, who was sitting beside Allon on the stage. The forum was hosted by Manhattan Media, the company that Allon owns, with help from GothamSchools. (View the entire event.)
The one thing all of people on Allon's list have in common is that they have experience working with schools and educators, which Mayor Bloomberg's three chancellors have not had. Bloomberg's first and longest-serving chancellor, Joel Klein, drew criticism because he had come from the corporate world, and most of the candidates were eager to say they would not make the same decision. Liu, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, and former comptroller Bill Thompson all promised to choose an educator to lead the schools.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn was the only outlier. She said she did not think the next schools chancellor should necessarily have an education background.
A month after taking over a Department of Education hemorrhaging its leadership, Chancellor Dennis Walcott today announced a slew of high-level appointments.
For two deputy chancellor slots, Walcott turned to veteran educators who made their careers in the city schools.
David Weiner, a one-time city principal who is currently Philadelphia's chief accountability officer, will become deputy chancellor for talent, labor, and innovation. In that position, he will manage hot-button issues including labor relations and the city's Innovation Zone of schools experimenting with technology. The founding principal of PS 503 in Brooklyn, Weiner succeeds John White, who took over the Recovery School District in New Orleans at the beginning of May.
A 30-year veteran of the city school system, Dorita Gibson will take on a newly created position, deputy chancellor for equity and access. She will supervise District 79, the network of alternative schools previously headed by Cami Anderson, who was named Newark's next schools chief last week. District 79 will still get a new superintendent, according to DOE spokeswoman Natalie Ravitz.
Gibson will also lead initiatives that "focus on ending long-standing racial, ethnic and socioeconomic disparities and directing supports to communities most in need," according to the city's press release. Some of those initiatives previously fell under the purview of Santiago Taveras, the deputy chancellor for engagement who departed for the private sector earlier this year.
The appointments signal that Walcott is moving to stabilize the department, which has experienced rapid leadership change at the top since ex-Chancellor Joel Klein left at the end of last year. They also confirm Walcott's intention to continue policies established during Klein's tenure while also asserting new priorities.
It would be reasonable for Schools Chancellor Cathie Black to be alarmed by the rapid exodus of the Department of Education's top deputies.
After all, when her predecessor Joel Klein handed over the reins last November, he declared, "I also am comfortable in saying I’m leaving you the best team ever assembled in education.” Mayor Bloomberg also emphasized that he was confident that Black could get past her lack of education experience by leaning on her deputies.
Now four of those deputies have left or are about to. John White, deputy chancellor for talent, labor, and innovation, is set to be named superintendent of schools in New Orleans. Santiago Taveras, deputy chancellor for community engagement, left earlier this week for the private sector. Eric Nadelstern, a top educator who had been with the department for nearly 40 years, retired abruptly n January. And Photeine Anagnastopoulos, the department's finance guru, tendered her resignation the day after Klein's.
But Klein said earlier this week that he is not worried about Black's ability to recruit new talent to the department. In fact, he said, the exodus could be a boon for Black, if she sells it right. "The message is come to New York and you’ll be on your way to a superintendency," he said.
The city teachers union today formally asked the comptroller and special commissioner of investigation to examine the accuracy of the Department of Education's teacher ratings.
The move comes after an ongoing back-and-forth between the union and the city over how city officials ensure the accuracy of the data that determine the ratings. Yesterday, the union called a press conference to share stories of teachers who discovered that their data reports rate their effectiveness based on students and subjects they had never taught.
The feud over the ratings began in October, when city officials announced that they intended to release the teacher rankings to reporters. Union officials began collecting examples of errors on the reports, and then sued to block the release, arguing that the reports were too riddled with inaccurate information to be released.
Teachers union President Michael Mulgrew said Sunday that his staff has documented at least 200 cases in which teachers' reports include errors. In its court filings, the union gave nearly 20 examples of reports, with teachers' names redacted, that the union claims reflect errors.
But city officials countered today in a letter to Mulgrew that because there were no names attached to the examples the union cited, they have been unable to verify the letters. The letter, signed by Deputy Chancellors Shael Polakow-Suransky and John White, asked the union to share the details of those cases.
Anyone who stayed until the bitter end of a three-hour meeting last night about kindergarten waitlists in Manhattan got a surprise: an uncharacteristic apology from a top DOE official.
Hundreds of parents turned out for a meeting of the parent council for District 2 to vent about having been shut out, at least for now, of their neighborhood schools. Last week, Manhattan parents protested at City Hall after 273 children were put on waiting lists at many elementary schools.
Deputy Chancellor Kathleen Grimm arrived late to the meeting after spending her afternoon dealing with the swine flu outbreak in Queens. She sat quietly in the audience and listened to a tense back and forth between school officials and angry parents. The auditorium had mostly emptied and council members were preparing to adjourn when Grimm approached the microphone to make a surprise statement, which I captured on video above. Here's a key part of what she said:
I also want to say something that I thought I heard people from the DOE say tonight, but just in case you didn't, I want to say, I'm sorry. We're sorry. We have stumbled on some of this planning.
The two officials leading the meeting told parents during the meeting that most schools should be able to eliminate their wait lists by the middle of June, after families find out where they've been offered seats in gifted and talented programs. John White, who heads the Department of Education's efforts to manage school space, said that more children in each area qualified for gifted admissions than there are children on the waiting list.
The large auditorium at P.S. 194 in Harlem was filled to the brim for last night's meeting. <em>Photo by Kyla Calvert. </em>
Despite repeated cries for a calmer debate, including one from a City Council representative who said he was dismayed by the "divided house," it was wagging fists, name-calling, and raucous shouting matches that ruled the day at a hearing last night in Harlem.
The crowd had gathered to discuss the city's proposal to replace P.S. 194, an elementary school the city announced in December it plans to phase out, with a charter school founded by Eva Moskowitz. But they left late last night with no consensus on what to do next, aside from the resounding certainty that the move to add more charter schools to Harlem — which now has 24 charter schools, making it second only to New Orleans in market saturation — will not happen without a bitter fight.
Among those who spoke out against the charter school coming into P.S. 194 were Annie B. Martin, president of the New York chapter of the NAACP; City Council member Robert Jackson; City Council member Inez Dickens; a staff member of state Sen. Bill Perkins; and a representative of Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. Jackson not only condemned the decision but said he is considering holding a hearing at City Hall to pursue the matter.
The dissenting voices often collided with equally passionate parents and teachers at the charter school, Harlem Success Academy 2, and the two camps found themselves in several shouting matches.
At one point, a P.S. 194 mother screamed so loudly into the microphone about her despair that 194 is shutting down that a Harlem Success mother stood up with her finger to her mouth. "Shh!" she said. When the woman did not calm down, the charter school mother took her twin son and daughter by the hand and pulled them out of the auditorium. "I don't need my kids to see this," another Harlem Success mother had said moments earlier, tugging her children out of the assembly hall. At other moments, emotional testimony led pockets of the audience to rise to their feet in anger. The shouting drowned out any words.
75 Morton Street, the subject of a rally last summer, could still become a school. <em>(GothamSchools)</em>
A meeting about overcrowding in Manhattan schools last night ended in surprising fashion: with the Department of Education being lauded for listening to parents.
Parents from one local school, the Clinton School for Writers and Artists, showed up to the meeting of the Community Education Council for District 2 in red, as planned, to protest the idea of their school moving. Hundreds of other parents arrived armed with protest signs and talking points about the need for more school seats in the district, which covers most of Manhattan below 59th Street and the Upper East Side. Advocates have criticized the DOE for understating the extent of crowding in the area.
But the mood relaxed after John White, the DOE official on hand, dispatched with the idea that Clinton would be asked to move. White said the DOE instead would try to ease crowding by finding a new space for Greenwich Village Middle School. That school is eager to move out of its current location on the top floor of the already overcrowded PS 3 building.
One potential site for the school, according to White: part of the state-owned office building at 75 Morton Street that parents and elected officials lobbied mightily last summer for the DOE to obtain.