keeping tabs

Network system saving the city money on school support, IBO says

The city has cut spending on school bureaucracy over the past decade, a budget watchdog says.

According to a new report from the Independent Budget Office, the city spent about 22 percent less to provide schools with teacher training, budget planning, staff recruitment, and other administrative services in 2011-12 than it did in the 2002-03 year, after adjusting for inflation.

The cost savings came as the city shifted and consolidated its bureaucracy under Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Prior to 2003, support was primarily provided to schools through 38 community and high school superintendents who each governed their own local district. By 2009, the city had settled on a new “network” structure largely divorced from geography.

Schools rely on support structures for crucial functions, like helping them select technology and curriculum vendors and to improve instruction, and the networks were the topic of much debate among principals at the end of Bloomberg’s tenure. Total spending on school support in 2011-12 reached $293.1 million.

But the current system may not remain in place for long.

“Change may be coming again,” the report’s authors write, alluding to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s pledge to restore some authority to district superintendents. De Blasio has criticized the current system as being unresponsive to parent concerns.

If the de Blasio administration changes the structure for school support, he’ll be following in Bloomberg’s footsteps. The previous mayor oversaw three such shake-ups between 2003 and 2009.

Bloomberg’s first big change came in 2003 when he consolidated power from 38 superintendents to 10 regional superintendents. One of the new administrators was Chancellor Carmen Fariña, who has spoken positively of that structure since taking over the Department of Education.

That 2003 overhaul resulted in a $72 million inflation-adjusted spending decline, according to the report, the biggest spending drop to result from the three reorganizations.

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Since 2009, principals have received support by partnering with one of more than 60 Department of Education or nonprofit-run providers, regardless of geography. The “network” system emerged as one way to offer principals greater authority, but has also been criticized for separating schools from their communities and allowing some networks to be less responsive to their schools.

Those networks have remained intact eight months into the de Blasio administration. In April, Fariña told principals that the current system would remain in place “with minimal interruption” for the time being.

Ray Domanico, the IBO’s director of education research, said the potential for changes in the near future and an increasingly cryptic budgeting system made it a good time to note the implications of the restructuring under Bloomberg. School-support spending is increasingly spread out across various parts of the Department of Education’s budget, a trend that Domanico said makes it harder for the public to know how their tax dollars are being spent.

“Just in terms of transparency it’s significant,” Domanico said.

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.