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December 2, 2013
Shelby County Commission approves deals with Bartlett, Collierville, Millington
The Shelby County Commission voted unanimously to approve settlements with Bartlett, Collierville, and Millington Monday. The settlements will facilitate the suburbs' plans to open their own school districts. The commission also approved the quitclaim deeds that transfer school buildings from the merged Shelby County school system to the municipalities.
November 26, 2013
Shelby County Schools approves agreements with Collierville, Millington, and Bartlett
At a special called meeting this evening, Shelby County’s school board unanimously approved agreements with Collierville, Millington, and Bartlett. The agreements settle a lawsuit and…
November 21, 2013
Bartlett reaches settlement with Shelby County Schools
Bartlett has reached a settlement with Shelby County Schools, WREG reported last night. Bartlett, the largest suburb in the Memphis-area, will pay $7.3 million…
November 19, 2013
Shelby County board approves building transfers, settlement with two suburban districts
Shelby County’s school board voted unanimously Tuesday to transfer five school buildings to two of the six suburban cities that plan to break away from…
November 6, 2013
As Germantown mayor begs to negotiate, Shelby board members gawk
Germantown’s mayor, Sharon Goldsworthy, upset several Shelby school board members at a committee meeting Wednesday when she claimed to want to keep Memphis students within…
October 28, 2013
No action on municipalities’ lawsuit at Shelby commissioners’ meeting
Shelby County's Board of Commissioners didn't vote on whether to drop a longstanding lawsuit against several municipalities attempting to split from Shelby County Schools Monday, despite suggestions that the decision could come this week. Shelby County commissioner James Harvey told Chalkbeat last Tuesday that the county commission is considering dropping a lawsuit that would prevent municipalities from splitting from Shelby County’s school district. Six municipalities are attempting to separate from Shelby County Schools after the system absorbed Memphis City Schools, which is mostly poor and black.
July 18, 2013
UFT lawsuit to stop changes in school utilization
Link: UFT lawsuit to stop changes in school utilization The UFT has filed the lawsuit that it said it would today, to block…
July 10, 2012
Judge rules that city must reinstate staff at turnaround schools
Lawyers for the UFT spoke to reporters about the union's short-term court victory outside of New York State Supreme Court today. Legal battles between the city and the United Federation of Teachers are typically long, drawn-out affairs. Not today. In just 40 minutes this afternoon, Judge Joan Lobis of the New York State Supreme Court made up her mind about the city's request to suspend an arbitrator's ruling in the UFT's favor while she considers the city's formal appeal. There will be no restraining order, Lobis ruled. That means that hiring and firing decisions that have been made at 24 struggling schools that the city was trying to overhaul will be reversed. The Department of Education will have to reinstate hundreds — and possibly thousands — of teachers and administrators cut loose from the schools as part of the "turnaround" process. "They no longer have an excuse for not complying with the arbitrator's award," Ross said about the city. Asked by reporters about the education department's immediate plans for allowing the teachers to reclaim their positions, Deputy Chancellor Marc Sternberg said, "Talk to the law department." The city's top lawyer, Michael Cardozo, said in a statement that he was confident that Lobis would side with the city as the case moves forward. The hearing was a first step in the city's appeal of a ruling handed down two weeks ago by an arbitrator who found that the city's hiring and firing decisions — a key aspect of the Department of Education's turnaround plans — violated the city's contract with the teachers union.
May 18, 2012
"Turnaround" hiring to resume, but decisions could be reversed
State Education Commissioner John King observes an English and Language Arts class at the Dual Language Middle School. Hiring is set to resume at the 24 "turnaround" schools under an agreement city and union officials reached late Friday afternoon. But the hiring decisions could be reversed if an arbitrator ultimately decides that the unions' complaint — that the city is attempting to circumvent contractual hiring and firing policies at the schools — is valid. The city teachers and principals unions sued to stop the hiring process, but on Wednesday, a State Supreme Court judge urged both sides to accept arbitration rather than pursue litigation. Today, the city and unions agreed "in principle" to seek arbitration, selected an arbitrator, and selected a first meeting date — June 5. In the meantime, the city will continue the process of rehiring or replacing teachers at the schools — but will have to run the risk of having those decisions undone if the arbitrator rules in the unions' favor. The outcome of the contractual dispute could affect the state's ability to approve those 24 schools for a pot of federal funds, Commissioner John King told reporters today.
May 9, 2012
Officials: Temporary stay on turnarounds could derail process
City officials are fretting that even a temporary halt to hiring at 24 turnaround schools will weaken their ability to carry out a key piece of the improvement strategy for those schools: recruiting top-quality teachers. On Tuesday, when the Department of Education agreed to halt hiring in the schools for at least a week during the first round of a union lawsuit, officials said no hiring would be happening yet anyway. But they are worried about what would happen if Judge Joan Lobis grants a temporary restraining order extending the freeze, as she did two years ago when a union lawsuit over school closures came before her. If that freeze extends into June, officials say it could hurt the schools' chances of attracting and retaining the most qualified teachers in the applicant pool. When the judge decides whether to grant a temporary restraining order, she will weigh the likelihood that the unions' case has merits — but not the merits themselves — and also the likelihood that a delay would harm the schools. Department officials seem likely to argue that the schools would not be able to recover from a slowdown because teachers may not be able to hold out until June if they receive other job offers before then. But the request for a restraining order is not unexpected: The UFT vowed to sue almost as soon as Mayor Bloomberg announced the turnaround plans in January, and seeking a temporary restraining order is the first step in many legal fights over school policy.
February 8, 2012
For second year in a row, a new Moskowitz school is being sued
Sabrina Tan, a lawyer for Advocates for Justice, describes the firm's suit over a new charter school. Backed by a law firm that has battled the Department of Education in court repeatedly over the past year, a group of Cobble Hill parents announced today that they are suing to stop Eva Moskowitz's Brooklyn Success Academy 3 from moving into their neighborhood. Fifteen public school parents signed onto the suit, which Advocates for Justice said it would be filing today. The suit claims the city and Moskowitz circumvented state education laws when they abruptly changed plans for the school late last year. BSA 3 was originally approved for either District 13 or District 14, but the city revised its proposal in late October and announced the school would instead share a building with two high schools and a special needs elementary school in District 15. Opposition to the plan quickly mounted and reached a climax when protesters clashed with Moskowitz at a meeting she hosted for prospective parents in November. The city's Panel for Educational Policy approved the co-location plan two weeks later. It's the second time in as many years that a Success school has been the subject of a lawsuit from the surrounding community. Last April, parents on the Upper West Side filed suit against the city's plan to site a Success school on the Brandeis campus, charging that the network was not serving the needy student population that was written into its charter. The suit was dismissed just weeks before the school was slated to open.
July 25, 2011
Following one legal victory, city faces new battle on co-locations
The lead plaintiffs on a new lawsuit against the Department of Education stand on steps of Tweed (from left: Arthur Schwartz, of Advocates for Justice; Mona Davids, of NYC Parents Union; Noah Gotbaum, District 3 Community Education Council President; and Leonie Haimson, of Class Size Matters Just days after the city received some good news in a lawsuit targeting its policy on charter school co-locations, another legal battle has arrived. A group of parent activists filed a long-threatened lawsuit against the Department of Education today, charging that it is in violation of state law that requires school districts to collect rent and utility money from charters schools that occupy public school buildings. The state education law cited in the lawsuit, Section 2853(4)(c), asserts that charters may rent public space and be provided with basic maintenance services, such as custodial work, utility payments and safety measures. But the law also states that the expenses from these services should be provided to charters "at cost." The exact amount of "at cost" is not clearly explained in the law - and state education officials did not respond to emails seeking clarification - but the city currently charges $1 in annual rent to about 80 charter schools that operate in public school buildings. It also waives fees for utilities and provides operational services. The lawsuit estimates that these costs add up to $100 million per year and should be shouldered entirely by charter schools.
July 22, 2011
Top DOE official proposes happy hour to celebrate lawsuit news
The Department of Education official in charge of opening and closing schools has proposed drinking to the news that some of his plans can go forward. In an email to at nearly 80 top-ranking DOE employees — but not to Chancellor Dennis Walcott — Deputy Chancellor of Portfolio Planning Marc Sternberg announced a happy hour to celebrate last night's State Supreme Court ruling in the lawsuit filed by the UFT and NAACP. He wrote: Last night: New York Supreme Court Justice Paul Feinman denied the UFT and NAACP's request for a preliminary injunction preventing the Department of Education from moving forward to close 22 failing schools and co-locate 15 public charter schools in DOE buildings. The judge's ruling allows the DOE to move forward with the closings and co-locations. Tonight: Come join us for a drink to honor this important moment for New York City's public school families! Please forward —all are welcome! The email was sent just before 1 p.m. today and was later posted to the NYC Education News listserv run by parent activist Leonie Haimson. Natalie Ravitz, the DOE's chief spokeswoman, confirmed the message's authenticity. "We have no problem with our employees getting together with friends after work for a happy hour, as people do in companies and organizations across America," Ravitz said. The full email, including its addressees, is below.
July 22, 2011
As co-location construction starts, the UFT weighs its next steps
Hours after a judge ruled that the city can go ahead with a controversial slate of school closure and openings, union lawyers are starting to sketch out their response. Department of Education officials said construction projects planned to ready school buildings for co-locations were free to begin. At PS 308 in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, workers were painting classrooms. But Rafiq Kalam Id-Din said he was still waiting for the city to approve construction for the school he runs, Teaching Firms of America Charter School. Meanwhile, lawyers for the United Federation of Teachers, one of the leading plaintiffs in the lawsuit, are studying the decision and deliberating their next steps. The ruling last night denied a preliminary injunction that would have barred the city from moving forward with its plans, but it did not assess the merits of the UFT and NAACP's claims that the city's plans would lead to inequities among schools. Last night, the union said it would not drop the lawsuit, and any future adjudication would focus on those equity claims. But it could take some time for union lawyers to wade through questions that could influence how they proceed. One question is just what the union would seek to get out of such a suit. With the start of the school year just weeks away, the chance of any further action preventing the start of phase-outs and the beginning of co-locations is virtually nil.
July 7, 2011
As closure looms, Columbus teachers plan curriculum revamp
Christopher Columbus High School students wait to receive their diplomas at graduation in the Lehman College auditorium.Tamjid Chowdhury, this year’s valedictorian of Christopher Columbus High School, said in his graduation speech that the fight to save his school from closing had ironically provided some of his favorite memories. Tamjid Chowdhury, this year’s valedictorian of Christopher Columbus High School, said in his graduation speech that the fight to save his school from closing had ironically provided some of his favorite memories. "It was one time I was awed by the sense of unity in the school,” he said of the rallies. For teachers and staff at the Bronx school, another year under the threat of closure has ended with stories of coming together to improve. The unity extended beyond protests at public meetings. Without anyone asking them to, a group of teachers at the school spent the year huddling together to redesign the school's curriculum. “We knew if anything good was going to come out of this year, we would have to generate it, and we would have to execute it," said Christine Rowland, an English teacher who also works for the UFT. City officials tried to close Columbus this year and last year, and they want Columbus phased out by 2014 to open a new school in the building. Teachers have tried to save the school multiple times by rallying behind efforts to convert Columbus into a charter school, and Columbus remains at the center of the lawsuit filed by the teachers union and the NAACP to stop school closures. “It’s a really big blow to our psyche,” said Larry Minetti, an art teacher who has taught at Columbus for 16 years.
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