DOE headquarters at Tweed Courthouse Who is getting fired and when? That's the question on everyone's mind at Tweed Courthouse today. As Elizabeth already reported, as part of the mayor's citywide budget cuts, the Department of Education is cutting 6.6 percent of its budget centrally and passing down 1.3 percent cuts to individual schools. That means 475 DOE jobs are going to be lost. The bulk of those jobs — nearly 300 — will be cut from the department's central administration, housed at Tweed. In a conversation with reporters outside City Hall this afternoon, Chancellor Joel Klein said he has already asked his senior leadership team — heads of departments and other top DOE officials — to identify positions they might eliminate. In addition, department officials are looking at "every program" to identify which are "less vital" or possible to streamline, he said. No one has yet been fired, the chancellor said, but layoffs will begin within the next few days. All of the positions will be eliminated by the end of 2008. DOE officials chose to make the majority of the department's cuts centrally because doing so is in line with the DOE's focus on children, who "didn't create the current financial crisis," the chancellor said. Still, schools will lose 1.3 percent of their budgets for this school year.
Terence Tolbert with Mayor Bloomberg (via Facebook) Thoughts are falling many places this Election Day, and one place, especially among those who work at the Department of Education, is the life of Terence Tolbert, the DOE's chief lobbyist who died Sunday night at age 44 while on a leave of absence to run Barack Obama's campaign in Nevada. Tolbert, by all accounts a tireless worker, was responsible for spearheading many of the DOE's biggest projects, including the effort to raise the cap that kept the number of charter schools allowed in New York at 100 and the settlement of the historic Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit. He also was a reliable public face for the Bloomberg administration around the city, chairing hearings often attended by unhappy parents, and one of just a small number of African-Americans among the DOE's top leadership. So strong was his commitment to his work for the Bloomberg administration that a friend, Larry Blackmon, told me that in his final days campaigning for Obama, Tolbert was already starting to look forward to his next fight, on behalf of renewing the law that gives control of the public schools to the mayor. "He made it a point to me to tell me that the day after it was over he was packing up and he was driving back," Blackmon said. "He was really looking forward to coming back home." But on Tolbert's Facebook page, in our comments section, and in conversations I had with his friends this week, the overwhelming impression is less of a political operative than of a man who was a mentor and inspiration to many; a man who made many friends, despite a stubborn insistence on always telling things exactly as he saw them; and a man whose primary commitment was to public service.
We don't know how large voter turnout is so far, but it's clearly impressive. As Mayor Bloomberg said this morning, “Anybody that thinks that democracy is not working in America just has to look today.” Will the civic engagement be sustained? One way for parents to stay engaged, of course, would be to get active in their child's public school. The teachers union is holding its annual conference Saturday on how to do that. About 3,000 parents are expected to show up, and although formal registration has closed, a person at the union just told me that if parents still want to sign up, they can, by calling 212-598-9025. At the conference, parents will find workshops on subjects including how to understand new standardized tests and how to deal with gang violence. Maybe parents could also discuss which PTA's held bake sales and which didn't. Another incentive to show up: Philissa, who has attended the conference for the last three years (representing Insidechools.org — she's not a parent yet!), says that last year Hillary Clinton made an unannounced appearance. More details after the jump.