Parents and students rallied at City Hall this afternoon to protest the city's closure plans
Replacing teachers at the remaining 26 turnaround schools could cost the city as much as $60 million, according to a new analysis released today by one of the city's most vociferous opponents.
The report, released by the Coalition for Educational Justice in advance of an organized student and parent protest at City Hall, also took aim at the process the Department of Education used to assessed many of the schools that remain on the turnaround list. A dozen schools are doing well enough on their annual progress reports that they cleared the city's own closure benchmark.
The CEJ cost analysis found that up to 849 teachers in the 26 schools could be replaced in order to qualify for federal school improvement grants, which require that no more than 50 percent of teachers can be retained under the turnaround model. The analysis omitted teachers who were hired in the last two years because they are likely to be exempted from the total pool of teachers that must reapply to their positions.
The final figures will almost certainly be less than CEJ's projections because DOE officials have begun telling principals they won't be on the hook any specific number of teachers.
The report details the salary and tenure profile at each of the 26 schools. For instance, teachers at John Dewey High School, where college-readiness rates exceed the city average, earned the highest average salary, $82,641, and just 7 percent of its staff was hired in the last two years. At Banana Kelly, where more than half of its teaching staff joined the school in recent years, just one teacher would need to be removed at the school to qualify for the funds.
Bryant High School teachers and students rally outside the school's 31st Avenue entrance before the closure hearing.
Over a hundred teachers, students, and alumni converged at from William Cullen Bryant High School closure hearing last night to warn city officials that undergoing "turnaround" next year would harm the school.
But some teachers said that rapid changes are already hitting the school under the hard-charging leadership of first-year principal Namita Dwarka.
Bryant is one of eight Queens schools proposed for turnaround, which would require them to close and reopen this summer with a new name and many new teachers. The school counts former schools chancellor Joel Klein among its graduates, but it has struggled in recent years to meet the city's expectations. It landed on the turnaround list because of its lagging graduation rate, which last year was 56.5 percent, slightly lower than the city average.
City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer invoked Bryant's century-old legacy in a press conference outside the school and during the hearing. Sporting a lapel pin with the school's mascot, an owl, and other alumni, Van Bramer said the school's tradition of excellence brought pride to the community and should be preserved.
Many teachers who spoke at the hearing shared his concern. But others expressed enthusiasm about changes at the school. The conflicting feelings reflected some of the tensions that have arisen since Dwarka took over as principal in September and, according to at least half a dozen teachers who have spoken with GothamSchools, began issuing low ratings to teachers who had never received them before.
Just days after telling the state that it wanted to "turn around" 33 schools, the city has knocked that number down to 26.
Department of Education officials notified principals at seven of the schools with top grades on the city's internal assessment of school quality their schools would no longer be slated for turnaround.
Turnaround is a federally prescribed school reform process that requires half of teachers to be replaced. In the model the city is using in order to win federal funds, the schools would have been closed and reopened with new names and new staffs this summer. The department had been criticized roundly for proposing to turn around seven schools that had met the city's own benchmarks by receiving A's or B's on their annual progress reports.
The city's shocking about-face comes less than a week after the city submitted formal applications to the state for approval and just hours before one of the schools on the list, Brooklyn's School for Global Studies, was set to have a public hearing about its closure. Another school on the list, Harlem Renaissance High School, had a closure hearing last week.
In addition to Global Studies and Harlem Renaissance, the five other schools no longer slated for turnaround are William E. Grady Career and Technical High School, Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School, I.S. 136, William Maxwell Career and Technical High School, and Cobble Hill School of American Studies.
Chancellor Dennis Walcott said in a statement that department officials had concluded the schools could improve without radically overhauling their staffs.
Dozens of Queens elected officials and their policy advisers rallied today in Kew Gardens to denounce the city's plans to turnaround 33 schools, including several from Queens.
Standing beside a dozen elected officials this morning, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall recalled the anxiety in the voices of the many Queens students, teachers and school leaders who have implored her to help them fight city plans to close their schools this year.
"When they came to us, I heard children cry, 'What am I going to do?'" Marshall said at a press conference denouncing the city's plans to "turn around" 33 schools, including eight Queens schools. "They love their schools, they want to stay in their schools. They love learning in their schools. I stand hand in hand here with the children. They do not want this."
Marshall convened the press conference just hours before Queens' first public hearing about turnaround, the controversial process the city has proposed for 33 struggling schools. But the event was far from Marshall's first public statement on the plans, which would require the schools to close and reopen with a new name and many new teachers.
She also held a hearing at Queens Borough Hall about the proposals in February, where she unveiled an uncharacteristically aggressive stance against the Department of Education. The shift makes sense: For the previous decade, Queens has seen relatively few of its schools shuttered for poor performance, and of the 23 schools whose closures or truncations were approved in February, only one was in the borough. But the borough is home to a full quarter of the schools proposed for turnaround.
Hearings This Week
School for Global Studies, Brooklyn
Grover Cleveland HS, Queens
Herbert H. Lehman HS, Bronx
HS of Graphic Communication Arts, Manhattan
William Cullen Bryant HS, Queens
J.H.S. 166 George Gershwin, Brooklyn
I.S. 339, Bronx
Richmond Hill HS, Queens
Among the many people set to attend a hearing tonight about the city's plan to "turn around" Herbert H. Lehman HIgh School is a teacher who has spent time on both sides of the documentary eye.
James McSherry, who has taught writing and film at Lehman for the last 20 years, was the subject of not one but two recent student reporting projects at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. In one story (above), by Nabil Rahman, McSherry empathizes with his students and shares pieces of his life story, saying, "I know what it's like to be hungry, to be lost, to be forgotten by a system that really doesn't care." A second story by Alex Robinson (below) focuses on the turnaround plans and McSherry's response to them.
McSherry won't be alone in opposing the turnaround plan tonight. Anne Looser, the school's UFT chapter leader, sent a press release last week drawing attention to the hearing and calling on the Department of Education to keep Lehman open with the same teachers. And students, too, are organizing to oppose the turnaround plan, which would require the school to be closed and reopened with a new name and many new teachers.
Lehman's hearing is among eight taking place this week. They are listed at the right.
A panel of speakers, with student Ajee Joyner seated third from left, was situated in front of a display of student work at Harlem Renaissance High School.
Three schools facing the same fate — a federally prescribed school reform strategy known as "turnaround" — registered their opposition in very different ways at public hearings Wednesday evening.
The hearings are a required part of the city's school closure process. In order to execute turnaround at 33 schools, qualifying them for a total of about $60 million in funding, the city must close and reopen the schools after changing their names and many of their teachers. Tuesday's hearings were the first in a series that extends to April 19, a week before the Panel for Educational Policy is set to vote on the turnaround plans.
At Sheepshead Bay High School, students and staff argued that the school is doing well despite a challenging student population. At Automotive High School, teachers acknowledged that the school desperately needs help — but they said past failures gave them little confidence the city could deliver it. And the community struck an entirely different tone at Harlem Renaissance High School, which would only be lightly touched by turnaround's most stringent requirements.
Harlem Renaissance High School
Opposition to turnaround was all in a name for students, parents, and teachers at Harlem Renaissance, a transfer high school that accepts students who have been unsuccessful at other schools.
A large portion of the school's 200 students turned out for the hearing, and many of the people who testified said their top priority was maintaining the school's name. A representative of the local community district testified that "Harlem" is an essential part of the name to preserve as the neighborhood continues to gentrify and change in character. Ajee Joyner, a senior, focused on the word "renaissance" and explained that she had learned it meant "rebirth" — a poignant definition for students who failed at or even dropped out of other schools.
"From the moment I walked through the doors, the theme of experiencing your own personal renaissance was constantly reinforced," said Joyner. "Every staff member reminds us on a regular basis that we can become whatever we want if we allow ourselves to be reborn in our learning and our educational paths."
Few schools' turnaround protests appear to focus on the renaming requirement. But at Harlem Renaissance, that could be the biggest disruption because it won't have to replace any teachers: 10 of the 18 teachers joined the staff in the last two years, so they would be counted as new under the federal rules about teacher replacement.
The state's labor relations board has heeded a teachers union request to appoint a mediator to broker a compromise on teacher evaluations at 33 struggling schools.
City officials say will contest the decision, which could undermine the Department of Education's chief justification for pursuing a reform strategy at the schools that would require many teachers to be displaced.
The ruling by the Public Employees Relations Board is a response to a request for mediation filed by the United Federation of Teachers in January. That request came a day after Mayor Bloomberg said that he would circumvent a collective bargaining requirement at the schools, which had been receiving federal funds to help them improve.
Because the city and union had not been able to agree on new teacher evaluations at the schools by a Dec. 31 deadline, Bloomberg announced that the city would switch the schools from the "transformation" and "restart" reform processes, which require new evaluations, to "turnaround," which does not. Chancellor Dennis Walcott argued at the time that the switch made PERB's intervention moot because the board has authority only in collective bargaining matters, and turnaround does not require collective bargaining.
But the city has not formally asked the state for permission to assign the schools to turnaround or withdrawn its application, submitted last summer, for funding for transformation and restart. PERB's director of conciliation, Richard Curreri, said those facts led him to conclude that the city is still bound by its 2011 agreement to negotiate new teacher evaluations at the 33 schools.
Tisch spoke on a GothamSchools panel in 2011.
Breaking her silence on the city's plan to overhaul 33 struggling schools, Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said late Wednesday that she believes "turnaround" is a political strategy, not an educational one.
"There's a fight going on here that has nothing to do with what's going on at the school," she said. "It's a labor dispute between labor and management and has nothing to do with the kids."
Tisch was referring to the stalemate between the Bloomberg administration and the teachers union that gave rise to the city's turnaround plans. Bloomberg announced the plans in January as a way to get federal funds for the schools even though the city and union had not been able to agree on new teacher evaluations, a requirement of less aggressive strategies already in place. The turnaround strategy, which require the schools to be closed and reopened after changing their names and half of their teachers, has only deepened enmity between the city and UFT.
On Wednesday, Tisch visited one of the schools, William E. Grady Career and Technical Education High School, and said she was impressed by the changes underway, which she attributed to its principal, Geraldine Maione. The school received millions of federal dollars in the last two years while undergoing "transformation," which funded extra tutoring, additional programs, and new technology.
"This is a school that is moving in a really fine direction," Tisch said of Grady, which received a B on its most recent city progress report. "This is the wrong message to this school at this time. Don't be so dismissive of the efforts going on in that building."
It was Tisch's second visit to the school. Last week, she brought fellow Regent Kathleen Cashin for a visit that was scheduled after she met Maione in February at a principals union event featuring Diane Ravitch. On Wednesday, Maione said, Tisch and Cashin brought State Education Commissioner John King along with them.
Principals of many of the schools proposed for radical overhauls this summer have begun trekking each Tuesday to the Department of Education's headquarters at Tweed Courthouse to prepare.
There, department officials are briefing them on how to shepherd their schools through the next six months during a weekly "Turnaround Schools Institute." The institute launched several weeks ago, after Mayor Bloomberg announced that 33 schools would be closed and reopened after having their leadership, programs, and teaching staffs shaken up under a federally prescribed process called "turnaround."
The institute is an adaptation of the "New Schools Intensive," a six-month training seminar that the department has run for principals of new schools for nearly a decade, according to Marc Sternberg, the department official in charge of school closures and new schools, who himself participated in the new school program when launching the Bronx Lab School in 2004.
The main idea, Sternberg said, is that the principals can work both with Department of Education officials and with other school leaders preparing for an unprecedented school overhaul process this fall. Multiple offices are involved in designing the programming, which borrows also from school overhaul trainings conducted in Chicago and North Carolina's Charlotte-Mecklenburg district and from efforts by nonprofit groups such as New Visions for Public Schools, which works with some of the city schools proposed for turnaround.
The city filled out its slate of "turnaround" proposals just minutes before the legal deadline to propose school closures for next year.
After posting documents detailing 15 of the rapid overhaul plans last week, the city published the remaining 18 at about 11:20 p.m. Monday night. Monday was the six-month mark before the likely start of the 2012-2013 school year, so it was the legal deadline for the city to release "Education Impact Statements" for any schools it wants to close.
Under turnaround, the city will close and immediately reopen the schools after replacing half of their teachers and, in many cases, their principals. The city devised the plan in January to allow federal funds for struggling schools to continue flowing even without a city-union agreement on new teacher evaluations.
The statements detail exactly what the city is planning to do with the curriculum, career programs, and extracurricular options — sort of. In many cases, the city says only that it "may" close a program or introduce another one. For example, the impact statement for W. H. Maxwell Career and Technical Education High School says the city "is considering" cutting the apparel design and communication media programs. The new school, the statement says, "will explore" adding a sports medicine program. (The statement also strains to identify shortcomings with Maxwell, which received an A on its most recent city progress report.)
The statements are just the first step in a series of legal procedures that lay the groundwork for closure — and they don't count for anything with the state, which must approve the plans if they are to receive federal funding. The city still has not submitted formal turnaround applications for State Education Commissioner John King to consider.
Paul Heymont, a social studies teacher at Automotive High School, shows off the list of sports and clubs on offer at the Brooklyn school.
It's hard to get students interested in your school when, according to the city's "turnaround" plan, it might not exist in the fall.
That's what Deborah Elsenhout, a guidance counselor at Banana Kelly High School, reasoned when droves of families walked right past her booth at last weekend's Round 2 High School Fair, toward the hallway reserved for new schools opening in the fall.
As one of 33 schools proposed for the "turnaround" school reform model, Banana Kelly is waiting to learn whether it will shut down this June, to reopen in the fall with the same students but a new name and a staffing overhaul. Students who apply to the 25 high schools on the turnaround list would automatically be transfered to the new schools that would replace them.
Elsenhout said she either glossed over the turnaround situation to families who did stop, or didn't mention it at all. But it's hard, she noted, to advertise a school without a name.
"We do have a rigorous academic curriculum and a strong connection with the community," she said. "But there's a sadness, knowing people will be losing their jobs."
Teachers at many of the turnaround schools have expressed persistent confusion about the plan and its implication for their students. They also found it posed a dilemma at the fair, where 270 schools were given a weekend to pitch their programs, new and old, to hundreds of eighth-graders who were not accepted at their top-choice high schools during the city's main admissions process. Some teachers reassured families their schools weren't going anywhere, but others said the schools were already gone.
Confusion about whether the city's turnaround proposals would amount to school closures can be put to rest.
Eight of the schools the Department of Education has said it would "turn around" are on the Panel for Educational Policy's April agenda — as closure proposals. The schools are among 33 the city has said it would overhaul in order to qualify for federal funding earmarked for overhauling low-performing schools.
The eight schools do not represent all of the closure proposals the city will ultimately make. Other schools that are not yet on the agenda, including Brooklyn's School for Global Studies, were told on Monday that the city had scheduled public hearings about their closure proposals for late March and early April. (The panel approved 18 non-turnaround closures earlier this month.)
City officials have said that they would move forward with turnaround at all 33 schools, even after the city and union settled a key issue that had derailed previous overhaul processes at many of the schools and after it became clear that the schools' performance varies widely. Turnaround would require the schools to close and reopen after getting new names and replacing half of their teachers.
Thirty-page "Educational Impact Statements" for each of the closure proposals offer clues about what the replacement schools would look like. The statements indicate that the city would maintain the schools' partnerships, extracurricular programs, and many curriculum offerings. The school that replaces Automotive High School, for example, would still offer vocational certification in car repair. Several of the schools would be broken into "small learning communities" that include ninth-grade academies, according to the city's plans.
In the statements, the department also explains the switch to a more aggressive overhaul strategy from the models that most of the schools had been undergoing until the end of last year, when their funding was frozen because the city and teachers union failed to agree on new teacher evaluations.
Michelle Robertson, an assistant principal and English teacher at Grover Cleveland High School, defends the school at a hearing about the city's "turnaround" plans in Queens.
Rather than filing through metal detectors when they arrive at school Thursday morning, students from Grover Cleveland High School plan to line up around the school's perimeter, locking hands in a "human chain."
They are hoping the display of unity will do what weeks of hearings and meetings have not — convince city officials to reverse plans to overhaul their school.
The purpose of the 7 a.m. march, according to senior class president Diana Rodriguez, is for students to demonstrate their passion for Grover Cleveland in the face of the city's plans to close the school, change its name, and remove some teachers via a federal reform model called "turnaround."
"There are teachers here I love so much, they've been teaching for 10, 20, 30 years, one for over 40 years," Rodriguez said. City officials "think they're saving money, but it's just going to worsen the problem. Getting rid of 50 percent of our staff and turning around and swapping principals and teachers from school to school doesn't solve the problem itself, it just extends it even more."
Students will hold hands and form a chain around the perimeter of the school, then march in a circle holding signs they've made for the occasion or saved from last year, when they held a similar protest, she said.
Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and Dmytro Fedkowskyj, her appointee to the Panel for Educational Policy, held a hearing Monday night for families and teachers at the eight would-be turnaround schools in Queens.
Dozens of teachers, parents, students, and at least one principal from the eight Queens schools facing "turnaround" say they have brought their concerns to district superintendents and other Department of Education officials this month to no effect.
On Monday evening, they found a more sympathetic audience: Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, who vowed to push back against the city's plans to close the schools.
Marshall's uncharacteristically aggressive promise came at a meeting at Queens Borough Hall that her office organized about the city's plan to "turn around" 33 struggling schools. Under the plan, which Mayor Bloomberg announced last month as a way to secure federal funding, the schools would close and reopen this summer with new names and at least half their staffs replaced.
Marshall sat before a standing-room-only crowd with Dmytro Fedkowskyj, her appointee to the Panel for Educational Policy, the citywide school board that decides the fate of schools proposed for closure. As a panel member, Fedkowskyj has emerged as a frequent critic of the mayor's school policies, signaling Marshall's endorsement, but she has typically been soft-spoken on education issues.
That was not the case on Monday. Marshall often clapped and cheered as she listened to dozens of teachers and families defend their schools. Occasionally she even interjected to describe how her respect for teachers developed over years of working as an early childhood educator.
The city's bid to "turn around" 33 struggling schools is politically motivated and should be quashed, according to the head of the city's principals union.
The city is days away from submitting a formal request for State Education Commissioner John King to release millions of dollars in federal funding for the 33 schools even though the city has not yet negotiated new evaluations with the teachers union.
Ernest Logan, president of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, sent a letter to King Tuesday urging him to reject the city's request. Logan charges that the city's announcement last month that it would abandon two in-process school improvement strategies, "transformation" and "restart," was meant only to sidestep a requirement that the city negotiate with CSA and the United Federation of Teachers. Without an agreement, King froze federal funds to the schools last month.
"Simply stated, if the Turnaround model were the most educationally sound plan of intervention for the 33 schools, it would have been selected for any or all of them in 2010 and 2011," Logan writes. "It was not. It is being proposed now only as a means of evading the ... evaluation requirements."
The city is required to negotiate new evaluations in order to receive federal funds and, in a plan Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced last month, additional state school aid. But Cuomo also said he would push changes to the state's 2010 evaluation law if districts do not adopt new evaluations by mid-month. City officials are lobbying legislators to take that route, even though a statewide teachers union, NYSUT, has said it is on the verge of agreement for nearly all districts other than New York City.
The entrance of Brighton Beach's William E. Grady Career and Technical Education High School.
Is the school being closed, or is it staying open?
Parents repeated variations of that question often over the course of a two-hour-long meeting Department of Education officials held at William E. Grady Career and Technical Education High School Monday evening to detail the city's plan to overhaul the school.
The answer, they were told, was more complicated than a matter of semantics.
"This school is not being closed," Aimee Horowitz, the school's superintendent, told families, teachers, and the School Leadership Team in three meetings at the school over the course of the day.
But she also said a new school with a different name would be opening in the building in the fall, and just half of Grady's current teachers would remain. Those are the conditions of the school improvement model known as "turnaround," she explained.
Mayor Bloomberg announced earlier this month that the city would use turnaround at 33 struggling schools so that they could continue receiving federal funds even if the city and teachers union do not agree on new teacher evaluations. Since 2010, Grady had been undergoing a different federally mandated overhaul process, "transformation," which relies on changing leadership, bringing in extra support services, and experimenting with longer school days and new teacher training.
The details Horowitz outlined were puzzling for several of the 40 parents and students who crowded into Grady's cafeteria to learn about the turnaround plan.
"First you say in your speech that the school was going to do transformation. And then as you go on you started saying things like, this is going to be a new school. So where are we, which one should we believe?" said Ade Ajayi, whose son is a junior. "A lot of things are going to change. Teachers are going to change. We don't even know if the name is going to be the same."
Two weeks after Mayor Bloomberg announced a plan to to replace half of all teachers at 33 struggling schools, efforts are underway to soften the threat.
Department of Education officials said today that the city is exploring the option of replacing fewer teachers at the schools under an allowance included in federal guidelines for the school improvement strategy known as "turnaround."
The turnaround process, which Bloomberg announced two weeks ago to sidestep a requirement of other school improvement strategies to negotiate new teacher evaluations with the teachers union, mandates that 50 percent of teachers be replaced. But the U.S. Department of Education makes special allowances for some teachers who have been hired in the last two years.
Now the city is looking to take advantage of that flexibility when it files formal turnaround applications with the state next month.
The catch is that not every teacher hired in the last two years is automatically eligible for the exemption.The federal guidelines make an allowance only for teachers who were selected "according to locally adopted competencies as part of a school reform effort" headed by a principal handpicked to lead it. That means, according to the guidelines, the teachers should have been screened for an ability to "be effective in a turnaround situation."
It's not clear how many of the roughly 3,400 teachers at the 33 schools would fall into this category. As recently as Monday, Chancellor Dennis Walcott told state legislators that there would be "possibly up to 1,500, 1,700 teachers" cut loose from the schools.
Two weeks after receiving the surprise news that their schools could close this June, some teachers are staging protests while others say they are too stunned to respond, for now.
At Herbert H. Lehman High School in the Bronx, Ann Looser is hoping fifty to 100 of her fellow teachers will stay after school tonight to protest city plans to “turn around” Herbert H. Lehman High School. As Lehman’s union chapter leader, Looser has led efforts to raise awareness about the city’s plan to “turn around” the school. Under the plan, which the city devised to keep federal funding despite a breakdown in negotiations over teacher evaluations, 33 low-performing schools would be closed and reopened after having half of their teachers replaced.
At Lehman, Looser and her colleagues have been trying recruit families, local politicians, and journalists to attend tonight’s “early engagement” hearing. The goal, she said, is to convince the city not to upend progress that the school had been making with the help of federal funds.
Under “restart,” Lehman had used the funds to offer credit recovery programs, peer mentoring, and extra training for teachers, Looser said. She said the extra help came at an important juncture, just as a new principal arrived after years of turmoil that included a grade-changing scandal. Purging the school’s teachers would set those efforts back, Looser said.
Students and teachers from John Dewey High School protested outside of the Brooklyn school on Friday, brandishing signs reading: "Fix Schools, Don't Close Them!" and, "Save John Dewey."
Anger and uncertainty about the city's plans to overhaul 33 struggling schools reigned today at a "Fight Back Friday" protest organized by teachers at one of the schools.
The handful of teachers who braved the cold to demonstrate outside John Dewey High School this afternoon were joined by about a dozen students, who all defend the strength of the school's programs and longtime staff.
Mayor Bloomberg announced last week that in order to secure federal funding, he would require the schools to undergo a process called "turnaround," in which they will close and reopen immediately with half of the teachers replaced.
Dewey, a large high school with over 2,700 students in southern Brooklyn, is one of 14 schools that had been receiving federal funds to undergo a different process known as "restart." Teachers said the nonprofit group brought in to manage the school under the restart process, Institute for Student Achievement, has so far revamped Dewey's schedule and offered new after-school activities to combat truancy. City officials said the relationship would continue even under turnaround.
Teachers said the startling news has already had a negative impact on the school community. Dewey narrowly escaped closure last year and now is set to get a new name as part of the city's rapid close-and-reopen plan.
Students at the High School of Graphic Communication Arts work on web-design projects Jan. 9.
When the city unveiled its school closure proposals last month, the High School of Graphic Communication Arts was not on the list. So students and staff there were surprised to learn last week that their school might well be closed in June after all.
Many students walking to the Manhattan school's Hell's Kitchen building this morning said they were primed for a typical school day, despite the news that Graphics, which received an F on its most recent progress report, would be one of 33 schools to undergo the "turnaround" process this year. Under that plan, which Mayor Bloomberg announced in his State of the City speech last week, the school would reopen in September with a new name and at least 50 percent of the current teachers gone.
Brendan Lyons, the school's first-year principal, said the news was "definitely a surprise for our organization and our community," but said he would wait for more details from the city before commenting on potential changes in store for the school.
If the turnaround plan is approved by the State Department of Education, Lyons would be eligible to stay on. But along with a team of educators and union officials, he would be responsible for selecting a new staff, drawing on current teachers for exactly half of the slots.
"Every crisis is an opportunity," Lyons said. "I'd like to show how our school is a model turnaround that other schools can learn from."
Last night's election results are a wake-up call. First, what to make of the resounding message sent by the major defeat of Prop 103? If it were a 10- or 12-point loss rather than a 28-point loss, I think you could chalk up the result to a low budget and a weak coalition of support, or to off-year levels of political interest.
But something bigger is at work, across party lines and regions of the state, that cannot be ignored. While the political middle, uninformed as it often is, may be inclined in good times to pay more taxes to K-12 organizations, a real hurt from the economy is amplified by Colorado voters' general skepticism of tax increases.
Here I think there is a clear gap between those "inside the education bubble" and most people living and working (or just looking for work) outside of it. Even someone like me, an advocate of some bold changes much less inclined to champion the K-12 establishment, but heavily immersed in the educational and political dialogue surrounding school systems, didn't foresee the size of the anti-103 wave. I don't have any evidence in front of me to support a claim either way, but it seems worthwhile to consider whether the gap has been growing in the past couple years.
So where does Colorado K-12 education go following the demise of Senator Heath's tax hike initiative? A couple weeks ago I wrote in a comment on another post on this site:
Parents in Brooklyn's Cobble Hill neighborhood say they're happy with their children's schools but wouldn't mind seeing a charter school move in.
Charter school operator Eva Moskowitz yesterday announced plans to open a new school in the Success Charter Network in Cobble Hill, an affluent, tree-lined neighborhood whose public schools are flush with parent involvement and, in some cases, parent donations. It would be Moskowitz's second foray into a middle-class neighborhood after pushing through a contentious plan to open a school on the Upper West Side this year.
In District 15, Cobble Hill's district, 1,500 parents signed a petition supporting the charter school's bid to open, according to a press release from Success Charter Network.
But parents I spoke to today at a coffee shop and housing project in the neighborhood said they hadn't heard of Moskowitz and weren't aware that space-sharing was a likely scenario — or that co-location fights can turn ugly.
Still, they said that the neighborhood could use more school options, no matter what they are.
"If there's a good school set up in the neighborhood and has a program my kid would like, I'd consider it," said Madely Rodriguez, a P.S. 29 parent who was sipping coffee outside Cafe Pedlar, a magnet for neighborhood parents after morning drop-off.
Long before there were federally funded "turnaround" schools, Nyree Dixon was turning around Brooklyn's P.S. 12. When she became the Brownsville school's principal in 2006, barely a fifth of the elementary school’s students were passing state exams and the school was being considered for closure.
Since then, P.S. 12 has seen a jump in test scores and has stayed off the city's list of schools on the chopping block. Dixon attributes the improvement to changes in the school’s culture and instructional practices.
She joined Deidre DeAngelis, principal of New Dorp High School on Staten Island, on a panel during the conference on alternatives to school closures that several advocacy groups organized Saturday. The pair discussed the strategies they used to help their once-failing schools stay open and, in New Dorp's case, turn into a model of successful school improvement for the city and federal education departments.
Those strategies — adding tutoring, offering more teacher training, connecting students and teachers, and engaging families — predate the structural and human capital changes the Obama administration has mandated for failing schools. They suggest that strong leadership is enough to change a school's course — a view that a top Department of Education deputy shared at Saturday's conference.
“Nothing that happens in Tweed is going to move student achievement as much as 95 percent of things that happen in a school building,” said Marc Sternberg, the deputy chancellor in charge of closing and opening schools.