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Shelby County Schools
June 5, 2014
Shelby County Schools board to consider extending Hopson’s contract
Experts say that superintendents of large urban school systems need a variety of skills, and that the board's confidence in a leader is the most important predictor of a district operating smoothly. But community members and local commenters have raised concerns about a school system where the cabinet that is currently devoid of traditional educators, especially in a city that is the center of a number of education reform efforts and home to most of the state's lowest-ranked schools.
February 20, 2014
Carmen Fariña's game plan to undo (and redo) the Bloomberg years
Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña has been tasked with helping to deliver big new priorities for the Department of Education, including a much-hyped expansion of pre-kindergarten. But when it comes to administering kindergarten to 12th grade, Fariña said in a sit-down interview that she wants the department to look more like the one she left eight years ago.
March 8, 2012
Revamped principal evals could reshape superintendents' role
Attention has focused squarely on teacher evaluations in recent months. But the state’s evaluation law applies to principals, too, meaning that major changes could be on the way for the way city principals are assessed. In some ways, principals in New York City have been preparing for the state’s evaluation system for years. Since 2008, the city has rated principals according to a tiered system based “multiple measures” that include student test scores — exactly as the state’s evaluation law requires. The city’s current teacher evaluation system is “an old, antiquated process that has to take leaps and bounds to move forward,” said David Weiner, a top Department of Education deputy, during a discussion for about 50 principals affiliated with Teachers College’s Cahn Fellows program in January. “Our principals process is in a much better place.” But that doesn’t mean a new system for principal evaluations is likely to come easily. The law’s requirements mean the city and principals union will have to settle on some major adjustments — adjustments that some question whether the city has the capacity to make. The biggest adjustment will have to be to the role of the superintendent, who must formally observe principals under the state’s new evaluations framework. The city will have to restore authority and support to the offices of the city’s 38 superintendents, which have seen both of those things disappear during the Bloomberg administration.
April 12, 2011
To justify tenure calls, some supes ask for teacher portfolios
As schools enter the peak season for teacher tenure decisions, teachers who are up for tenure are reporting increased scrutiny from principals and superintendents. A teacher contacted GothamSchools last week to report that her principal had surprised teachers up for tenure at her school with a request for a portfolio. "The superintendent just informed my principal that each person up for tenure had to have an extensive portfolio demonstrating all the work they do that benefits the school," said the teacher, who herself is up for tenure this year. "There's been stress, to say the least," she said. The portfolios are one of several ways district superintendents are soliciting evidence to back up their tenure decisions. The superintendents have always had the final say on tenure decisions, but they rarely challenged principals' recommendations in the past. Now they're under pressure to toughen the tenure process and deny tenure or extend probation more often. So they're asking principals to justify all of the recommendations they make. Superintendents can ask for whatever documentation they like, including portfolios. Some superintendents are also observing classes themselves or sitting down with principals to analyze teachers' performance. "Superintendents have been told that nothing is a given," said a high school principal.
March 22, 2010
Survey of superintendents shows state could lose 15,000 teachers
A survey sent out to school superintendents across New York State shows that proposed budget cuts could force the state to shed 15,000 teaching positions next year. Distributed by the association representing school superintendents and the New York State School Boards Association, the survey went out to about 700 superintendents and roughly half returned it. Those who did reported a grim year ahead in which the state would have to lay off four percent of its teachers, increase class sizes, and reduce electives. The bulk of those lost teaching positions would come from New York City's schools, which Mayor Bloomberg has said could lose about 8,500 teachers if the state budget cuts go through unchanged. Though 16 Democratic state senators have written to Governor David Paterson saying they won't approve any cuts to education, the Senate is now prepared to pass Paterson's budget as is.
September 9, 2009
A new school year, but school control so far is largely unchanged
After all that hand-wringing about "checks and balances" and "mayoral accountability," the school year has arrived, and the way the system is run is completely unchanged. A revised law has been on the books for nearly a month, but the new system is still a mystery. Though the law calls for a new parent center, greater oversight of the Department of Education's contracts, and an independent auditor of the department's education data, all of these alterations are in their infancy, and none have been put in place. Won as part of a deal between a group of runaway senators and Mayor Bloomberg, the parent center is perhaps the most concrete change with the least clear future. It will be housed at CUNY and will cost the city and state $1.6 million, but education officials have yet to define its role or how it will differ from the DOE's current parent outreach, the Office for Family Engagement and Advocacy. Asked how far along the center's development is, a DOE spokesperson had no comment.
July 8, 2009
Klein proceeds cautiously in naming 3 new superintendents
Chancellor Joel Klein is making good on his word that, regardless of mayoral control's expiration, he would continue to appoint superintendents. The Department of Education has named three new interim acting superintendents to fill vacancies, according to the city's chief schools officer, Eric Nadelstern. Why "interim acting"? "Right now everything's up in the air," Nadelstern said. "Until the governance matters are resolved," he said, the DOE is erring on the side of caution. There are legal ambiguities surrounding the chancellor's ability to appoint superintendents. With the reversion to pre-2002 education law, the chancellor can select superintendents, but they can only make contracts with community school boards. Klein has not revived these boards, leading some to question whether existing and incoming superintendents have the legal authority do their jobs. The new hires will replace the outgoing superintendents in districts 8, 15, and 21.
February 17, 2009
Principals: Give us our superintendents back!
A cornerstone of Chancellor Joel Klein’s reforms has been what you might call the principal-as-CEO principle, the idea that principals should have the freedom to run their schools as they’d like, in exchange for consequences if they falter. The change has transformed not just principals but also another familiar school leader: the superintendent. Superintendents used to spend their days inside the schools in their districts, coaching and evaluating principals. They're still legally required to rate principals. But under the Department of Education's latest reorganization, they have much less time to do these evaluations. That's because they're also required to train and support people at schools in other districts. The job has changed so much that superintendents don't actually have to visit the schools whose principals they evaluate. Some principals have said they appreciate being free from micromanaging superintendents. But others are now saying that school leaders benefited from the day-to-day scrutiny that the superintendents offered. "Most people do a little better when we know that we are accountable, not just in two years, but in the day to day," Jeffrey Scherr, who recently retired from Queens' Francis Lewis High School, said at an event last week at Columbia University's Teachers College for members of a TC-based principal fellowship program. (I wasn't at the event, but Insideschools' Crissy Strining was and sent me her notes. TC also posted a summary.) "A level of expertise was taken away" when superintendents lost their supervisory role, a principal of a Brooklyn secondary school said at the event.
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