The UFT wants former Chancellor Joel Klein to take a break from running News Corporation’s education division to explain just how the Department of Education helped schools it was once barred from closing.

The union has subpoenaed Klein to appear in court in the next phase of a school closure lawsuit filed last year. It has also issued “notices of deposition” to require 11 current Department of Education officials, including Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky, to testify.

That lawsuit, which a judge ruled should not impede the city’s school closure plans, argued that the department had not provided 19 schools with promised support. The city had committed to providing the supports — which ranged from assigning temporary teachers to add extra support to providing additional teacher training — under the terms of a 2010 closure lawsuit.

The union’s 2010 suit focused on the city’s compliance with state law about public notification of closure proposals. A state Supreme Court justice ruled that the city had not followed the law, halting school closures for that year. In a settlement, the city promised to pour extra help into the schools to help them boost performance and avoid closure the next year. But a year later, 14 of the 19 schools were back on the chopping block.

The depositions, which are set to start next month, aim to establish just what the department did and did not provide the schools between the settlement date and the announcement of a new round of closure proposals just months later. Fourteen of the 19 schools saved from closure in 2010 closed or began closing in 2011 and one, Maxwell Career and Technical High School, could be closed this summer under the terms of the city’s “turnaround” strategy. Four of the schools remain open without the threat of closure.

The subpoenas and notices of deposition come as the city prepares for a second round of 2012 school closure proposals. The Panel for Educational Policy voted to close or shrink 23 schools last month and could weigh as many as 33 additional turnaround proposals in April. UFT President Michael Mulgrew has vowed to fight turnaround, which would require half of teachers to be replaced at each school, but has not yet announced any legal action.

The union’s press release about the depositions is below.

UFT Subpoenas Joel Klein, Seeks Deposition of 11 DOE Officials in Closing Schools Lawsuit

The United Federation of Teachers today issued a subpoena and notices of deposition to compel the testimony of former New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, along with 11 Department of Education officials, in a continuing lawsuit over the DOE’s plans to close a group of city schools.

The orders seek the testimony of the current and former DOE officials as part of a lawsuit filed by the UFT, NAACP, parents and elected officials in March 2011. That lawsuit charges that the DOE failed to provide the additional services it had promised to help 19 schools, 2 of which the DOE has since closed and 15 of which it voted to close last year.

On July 21, 2011 New York State Supreme Court Justice Paul G. Feinman denied the UFT, NAACP and other plaintiffs’ request for an injunction to immediately halt the planned closings. But he permitted the underlying case, which charges the DOE with “a total abdication of any obligation to provide assistance to schools,” to proceed.

“Joel Klein and the DOE abandoned these schools, their students, and teachers,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew. “The public deserves to know who was responsible for failing these schools, and why the services these students were promised never appeared.”

The services the Department of Education promised but failed to provide to these schools include: assignment of ATRs (teachers, guidance counselors, social workers, and psychologists) to each school to provide additional supports,  individualized plans to identify community based organizations to support students and families, curriculum audits to assess the school’s educational program, targeted professional development and curriculum for ELL and special education students, and coordination with the UFT to establish UFT Teacher Centers in the struggling schools where it was possible.

The subpoena and notices of deposition require Klein and the other named officials to give sworn testimony about the city’s failure to provide promised supports to these schools. Any failure to comply with the subpoena or notices of deposition could result in contempt of court.

In addition to Klein, those ordered to testify include: Chief Academic Officer and Senior Deputy Chancellor, Shael Polakow-Suransky; DOE Executive Director of Operations, Shona Gibson; Executive Director of the Office of School Development, Edward Hui; Senior Supervising Superintendent, Donald Conyers; Cluster Leader, Deborah Maldonado; Network Leader, Kathleen Lavin; Network Leader, Jayne Godlewski; Network Leader, Roz German; Network Leader, Gerald Beirne; Principal, Nichele Manning-Andrews and Cluster Leader, Jose Ruiz.

The 19 schools are:

  1. Academy of Collaborative Education (Closed)
  2. KAPPA II (Closed)
  3. School for Community Research and Learning
  4. Academy for Environmental Science Secondary HS (Not closing)
  5. Beach Channel High School
  6. New Day Academy
  7. Frederick Douglas Academy III’s middle school grades
  8. Metropolitan Corporate Academy HS
  9. Monroe Academy for Business and Law High School
  10. Paul Robeson HS
  11. Christopher Columbus HS
  12. Global Enterprise HS
  13. Jamaica HS
  14. Norman Thomas HS
  15. PS 332 Charles H. Houston
  16. Business, Computer, Applications and Entrepreneurship HS (Not closing)
  17. Choir Academy (Not closing)
  18. Maxwell High School (Proposed for closure this year)
  19. MS for Academic and Social Excellence (Not closing)