a new plan

It’s official: Networks dead, regional support to return, sups to exert more control at struggling schools

Updated — Networks are dead and regional support centers are back, Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced Thursday, in her biggest reversal of Bloomberg-era education policy yet.

The new structure eliminates the 55 networks that have provided operations and academic support to schools. In their place will be seven Borough Field Support Centers, which will be tasked with helping schools with instruction, operations, counseling, and supporting students with special needs. They centers will open this summer and the system will launch next school year.

But the centerpiece of the new structure will be superintendents, who will have six staff members, including family engagement officers and a “principal‎ leadership facilitator,” according to the city. That represents a major power reversal, since superintendents have had only a handful of helpers in recent years and served mainly to evaluate principals.

The changes will clarify lines of authority for schools and parents alike by putting superintendents back in charge of supporting and evaluating schools, Fariña said at a forum hosted by the Association for a Better New York.

“The central element of our new approach is creating clear accountability,” she said, “and giving superintendents the authority and resources they need to improve what happens in our schools and in our classrooms.”

Fariña was careful to note that most principals will keep control of their hiring and budgets, and credited the Bloomberg administration for giving principals needed autonomy.

A white paper also released by the city on Thursday said the pre-Bloomberg Board of Education and community school boards “were rife with patronage, inefficiency and ineffective bureaucracy. That is why this administration believes so strongly in the reforms of the last administration that put the schools under the control of the Mayor and Chancellor, and ultimately gave more independence to principals.”

But that independence often left struggling schools without enough guidance, Fariña said, adding that the city’s lowest performing schools will not retain that full authority. Instead, they will receive “customized direction and support” and will also be expected to use consistent teaching methods.

Fariña said a few of the nonprofit groups and universities that run existing networks will be allowed to continue supporting their schools, but they will now fall under the oversight of superintendents. She named a few of those groups — New Visions for Public Schools, the Urban Assembly, and CUNY — but not others, suggesting that some could lose their role helping to manage city schools. City officials later said that they are still in discussion with all of the groups, known as Partnership Support Organizations, about what role they will play in the new system.

It wasn’t immediately clear what the organizations, renamed “affinity groups,” will be held accountable for, what type of superintendent they would report to, and whether all of the PSOs would be interested in such a role, which would limit their influence.

The new structure marks the end of the decentralized structure that emerged after years of reshuffling and experimentation under the Bloomberg administration. The networks spanned multiple boroughs and typically worked with principals at about 25 schools each, a structure that earned mixed reviews over the years. Many principals said the ability to choose their network and work closely with like-minded colleagues was important.

The network system’s harshest critics pointed out that it left low-performing schools with too little oversight and parents without local officials to turn to, two problems Fariña said would be improved under the new system.

Superintendents have been gaining clout for months under Fariña, herself a former superintendent. After forcing them to reapply for their jobs this summer (more than a third were replaced), Fariña gave them new responsibility to interact with parents, promote arts education, ensure that quality teaching happens in schools — and told them to act as “the eyes and ears of the chancellor.”

Teachers, parents, principals, advocates: What do you think of the changes? Tell us in a one-minute survey.

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.