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April 2, 2018
Five first days of school: How Richard Carranza’s start as chancellor compares to his predecessors’
Carranza's first day is shaping up to be very different from those of the most recent chancellors he succeeds. Here's what they did on day one.
December 6, 2013
Emails reveal the city's scramble to appoint Cathie Black, part II
An image of a redacted email sent from Cathie Black to a Bloomberg aide. As the frenzied effort to market Cathie Black as a viable choice to run New York City schools came to a close, the nominee herself came to a realization. "Frankly this sucks and I cannot imagine a more poorly thought out decision on mb side," Black, using a short hand for Mayor Bloomberg, wrote in an email on Nov. 23, 2010. That night, Black found out a panel convened to review her qualifications because she lacked the proper education credentials had rejected her appointment. "To be hung out in public with no fore thought is inconceivable to me," Black continued in the email, which was to Department of Education press secretary Natalie Ravitz. "But muscle on...I can only imagine the headlines tomorrow."
December 2, 2013
De Blasio says he won't put chancellor finalists 'on display'
Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio said during a press conference Monday that he would not submit his chancellor finalists to public scrutiny. Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio said Monday that he would not publicize his top choices to head the school system, a year after promising a “public screening” process for schools chancellor. The incoming mayor said he is seeking counsel from his transition committee – which includes public-school parents and advocates – and from others as he chooses someone to take over the nation’s largest school system in January. But he said he would not subject his top picks to public scrutiny – a vetting process that some cities have adopted when selecting school chiefs and one that some New York advocates have demanded. “We’re not going to have a beauty contest,” de Blasio said Monday during a press conference near City Hall. “We’re not going to put the different finalists on display.”
July 15, 2013
Lhota draws from education donors as Thompson lags in polls
Two big-city schools chiefs are among the most recent donors to Joe Lhota's mayoral campaign, according to finance records released today. Campaigns must file their donor records today, and Lhota's was among the first uploaded to the New York City Campaign Finance Board's website this afternoon. The records show that former city schools chancellor Cathie Black gave the Lhota campaign $175, the maximum that the city's public financing program will match, last week. But Black, who spent three tumultuous months as chancellor in 2011 before resigning, was not the only schools chief to donate to Lhota, the city's leading Republican candidate for mayor. MaryEllen Elia, the superintendent of Florida's Hillsborough County Public Schools system, gave him $125 earlier this month, as did her husband, according to finance records. Elia did not respond to requests for comment today. Hillsborough County, which includes Tampa, is the eighth-largest school system in the country and a recipient of significant Gates Foundation funding to study teacher quality and try out changes to hiring and firing rules.
May 2, 2013
Cathie Black emails reveal city scrambled to line up supporters
Oprah Winfrey, not education, dominated email messages between City Hall officials and Cathie Black at the start of Black's brief and bizarre stint as city schools chancellor. The city's long battle to prevent the public from seeing emails about how Black, a publishing executive with no education experience, came to be chancellor for 100 tumultuous days in 2010 and 2011 came to an end today with a court order to release the messages. The 78 pages of emails reflect communication only through 10 days after Black's appointment in November 2010, which is when then-Village Voice reporter Sergio Hernandez filed a Freedom of Information Law request for them. Still, the emails paint a full picture of a frenzied effort to tilt public opinion in Black's favor amid what the chancellor-nominee called "relentless press." Those efforts centered on petitioning prominent women including Winfrey and Caroline Kennedy to endorse Black publicly. Here's what the emails tell us about this short, weird moment in the city's education history: 1. Bloomberg's choice was set a week before he publicly picked Black. When the "small tectonic shift" of Chancellor Joel Klein's resignation and Black's appointment to replace him came on Nov. 9, 2010, it seemed like the news took officials at the Department of Education and City Hall by surprise, too.
April 8, 2011
At MS 223, a microcosm of reform's benefits and challenges
MS 223 in the South Bronx was the first school I visited when I started covering the city's public schools nearly six years ago.Principal Ramon Gonzalez introduced me to the on-the-ground issues that principals face every day — and now he is doing the same thing for readers of the New York Times. The cover story in Sunday's magazine, a profile of Gonzalez and MS 223, uses the school to examine how former Chancellor Joel Klein's school reforms are playing out in corners of the city far from Department of Education headquarters. Author Jonathan Mahler writes: In certain respects, 223 is a monument to Klein’s success: empower the right principals to run their own schools and watch them bloom. Thanks to Klein, González has been able to avoid having teachers foisted on him on the basis of seniority. He has been able to create his own curriculums, micromanage his students’ days (within the narrow confines of the teachers’ union contract, anyway) and spend his annual budget of $4 million on the personnel, programs and materials he deems most likely to help his kids. And yet even as school reform made it possible for González to succeed, as the movement rolls inexorably forward, it also seems in many ways set up to make him fail.
April 8, 2011
Bloomberg files formal request to make Walcott schools chief
The city's official request that Dennis Walcott be allowed to become schools chancellor even though he doesn't meet all of the state's requirements is now in Albany. Bloomberg sent the waiver request letter to outgoing State Education Commissioner David Steiner last night, city officials said. Until the waiver is approved, Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky is legally the city's chancellor, according to city officials. State law requires district leaders to fulfill a host of requirements, including holding a superintendent's license, which Walcott does not have. But the law also allows state officials to grant exceptions to the requirements for prospective district leaders who have "exceptional training and experience" in education. Bloomberg's letter to Steiner emphasizes Walcott's training and experience. The deputy mayor has a master's degree in education and significant experience in city education policy, as well as a year and half of experience as a kindergarten teacher in the mid-1970s. Former Schools Chancellor Joel Klein received a waiver based, in part, on teaching experience that was shorter. Steiner approved a waiver for ex-Chancellor Cathie Black only after she agreed to make Polakow-Suransky, a longtime teacher and principal, her second-in-command. Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch told GothamSchools yesterday that the state had not yet received a waiver request for Walcott, but that she had promised Bloomberg quick approval once it did.
April 7, 2011
Beating Black out the door by a day, White says he's confident
John White, deputy chancellor in New York City, is leaving to New Orleans. While Mayor Bloomberg was on the brink of announcing Cathie Black's departure last night, a deputy chancellor of the New York City Department of Education was boarding a plane — to New Orleans, where tomorrow he will be named superintendent of the Recovery School District. White's appointment to lead one of the most-watched education improvement efforts in the country has fallen under the radar in this whirlwind day of education leadership changes in New York. But the move is important: it means one fewer leader at Tweed Courthouse during a transition and a major promotion for White. White also said the Innovation Zone project he runs in New York would continue. "The work in New York goes on," he said less than half a day before Black would resign. He also called New Orleans "the most exciting place for education reform in the country." "It's because of what I've learned as an educator and an administrator in New York schools that I have faith about taking what I learned and going elsewhere," he said.
April 7, 2011
Joel Klein: Deputies' departures a selling point for Cathie Black
It would be reasonable for Schools Chancellor Cathie Black to be alarmed by the rapid exodus of the Department of Education's top deputies. After all, when her predecessor Joel Klein handed over the reins last November, he declared, "I also am comfortable in saying I’m leaving you the best team ever assembled in education.” Mayor Bloomberg also emphasized that he was confident that Black could get past her lack of education experience by leaning on her deputies. Now four of those deputies have left or are about to. John White, deputy chancellor for talent, labor, and innovation, is set to be named superintendent of schools in New Orleans. Santiago Taveras, deputy chancellor for community engagement, left earlier this week for the private sector. Eric Nadelstern, a top educator who had been with the department for nearly 40 years, retired abruptly n January. And Photeine Anagnastopoulos, the department's finance guru, tendered her resignation the day after Klein's. But Klein said earlier this week that he is not worried about Black's ability to recruit new talent to the department. In fact, he said, the exodus could be a boon for Black, if she sells it right. "The message is come to New York and you’ll be on your way to a superintendency," he said.
April 4, 2011
Black approval rating stuck at 17%, says NY1-Marist poll
A month's more time in the public eye has done nothing to lift Chancellor Cathie Black's approval rating. The number of New Yorkers who approve of her work remains at 17%, according to a NY1-Marist poll released tonight. That's the same place last month's Quinnipiac poll put Black and a drop from her 21% approval rating measured by Marist last February. And for context, the 17% figure is two percentage points below Governor Paterson's approval rating at its lowest, a number Marist described as historically low. Approval for the public school system's performance overall is higher, but not by very much. Only 38% of respondents said they approved of the school system's performance, and 20% rated the schools' performance as poor. School performance reports divided along racial lines. While 45% of white residents polled by Marist rated the schools highly, only 36% of Latino respondents and 25% of African-Americans did the same. Approval was higher among households with children who attend public schools. A little more than half, or 53%, said they approve of the system's performance.
March 7, 2011
City rolls back but doesn't abandon bid to cull schools' savings
Responding to principals' ire, the Department of Education is reducing the portion of funds it plans to recoup from schools that save for next year. Schools will now get to keep 70 percent of the money that principals elect to roll over to next year's budget, according to an email that Chancellor Cathie Black just sent to school leaders. That's up from the 50 percent that the DOE originally announced last month it would reclaim for administrative spending. Principals still have until March 18 to decide whether to participate in the rollover program, known as the Deferred Program Planning Initiative, or go on a spending spree right now. The take-back plan angered principals and parents who felt penalized for budgeting prudently in tough times. It was in response to their "thoughtful feedback" that the change was made, Black wrote. Last year, then-Chancellor Joel Klein also made a bid to take back every cent principals set aside in rainy-day funds for the subsequent year. After protests, Klein reversed his decree. Mayor Bloomberg yesterday suggested that he favored a similar change this year, saying during a radio interview that criticism of Black's plan contained "some merit" and that he would be discussing the plan with Black early this week. Today, Bloomberg said in a statement, “The chancellor came in this afternoon and briefed me on her plan, and I immediately signed off on it." Black's complete email to principals is below:
February 17, 2011
Mayor: layoff threat "more realistic" this year than ever before
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said today that his threats to cut more than 6,100 teaching positions — including over 4,600 through layoffs — should be taken more seriously than ever before, and the city will have to fight to avoid even more cuts across city agencies. Governor Andrew Cuomo's proposed state budget reduces state aid to New York City schools by $1.4 billion, and the city schools system is also facing the end of $850 million in federal stimulus funds. To negate those cuts, the city has moved $1.86 billion in city funds to the Department of Education since June, Bloomberg said today. But overall city expenses are still rising enough to necessitate the cuts in teaching positions, which were originally projected in the city's preliminary budget outlined in November, the mayor argued. Teachers union President Michael Mulgrew said that the mayor's layoff proposal was "more and more bizarre," given the increase in city revenue going to fill in gaps in DOE funding and the Cuomo administration's claims that state cuts should not mean local layoffs. "We’ve already lost nearly 5,000 teachers to attrition in the last two years, and class sizes are skyrocketing across the city," Mulgrew said. "It’s time the Mayor joined us in fighting for the children of our city by supporting the extension of the state millionaire’s tax, rather than continuing to focus, as he and Chancellor Black did in Albany this week, on a bogus strategy to lay teachers off.”
February 11, 2011
College-readiness may take even more than state's stats show
This week, state officials released some grim statistics: according to measures derived from a study conducted by a state committee last summer, just 23 percent of city high school graduates are well-prepared for college. But the college-readiness recommendations the City University of New York gives for its incoming students require even more achievement than the measures used by the state this week. And the city is preparing to judge high schools on how well they prepare students for college on a range of standards that city officials claim are more robust. For their data release this week, state officials examined students who earned at least a 75 on their English Regents exams and an 80 on their math A exams. Those cut-offs were based on an analysis of state test scores performed by Harvard University testing expert Daniel Koretz and assistant professor Jennifer Jennings last summer. That analysis predicted that students receiving those Regents exam scores would likely receive a C or higher in the college-level course. CUNY officials also recommend that students enter their classes having received at least a 75 on the English exam and an 80 on the Math A test. But in addition, they suggest that students also have scored at least a 65 on the Math B, the next test in the math sequence.
February 7, 2011
NY Magazine's very public profile of Chancellor Cathie Black
Schools Chancellor Cathie Black is on the cover of this week's New York Magazine, which carries an evenhanded-yet-damning profile of the Hearst magazine executive-turned-public schools chief. Though Black's public relations team has kept her on a short leash of late around the city's education beat reporters, reporter Chris Smith was able to spend some time with the chancellor, gathering her reflections on her first Panel for Educational policy meeting in January and on whether she checked her Blackberry during it. Smith's piece, titled "Just Smile," after a bit of advice Black offered students who were presenting their start-up business plans, contains some of the sharpest detail yet about her former magazine industry colleagues' impressions of her. (She's a good speaker. She's an endless self-promoter.) It also has quotes from the chancellor that shed some light on how much she's learned and how far she has to go. Black tells Smith that she's trying to empower public school principals and Smith follows up with a question about exactly what power principals currently lack. Black responds and gets tangled. She begins by talking about the power principals already have to control much of their budgets and ends several conversation stops away on the topic of public opinion.
January 28, 2011
Black on city history, teacher turnover, and school closures
Chancellor Cathie Black showed what she has learned and what she hasn't in her first month on the job on NY1 last night. Chancellor Cathie Black's interview on Inside City Hall last night is worth watching in full. The interview exposes just how much Black has been able to absorb in her first month on the job — and how much she hasn't. In a moment first highlighted by NY1 education reporter Lindsey Christ on Twitter, Black declared, "The public school system in New York City has been unbelievably successful since the birth of our nation." She was responding to a question from host Errol Louis about why she chose to send her children to private rather than public city schools. Black did not elaborate, but the statement is confusing given that public schools in New York City did not emerge until the early 1800s. Another moment of exposure had to do with teacher attrition. After a discussion about the "last in, first out" policy, Louis asked Black if she was concerned that almost half of New York City school teachers leave after 6 years in the classroom (PDF link). Here's how Black responded: Well you have to know, like, what's really at the heart of the issue. I don't know that we know what's really at the heart of the issue. Teaching is a hard job. We want the ones who are committed. We want the ones who make a difference. We want the ones who want to work hard and really change the lives of these young people. They're there on a mission. So, you know, some are going to leave. She then returned to the "last in, first out" question, arguing that perhaps teachers would be less likely to leave if they weren't concerned about being laid off. "Right now there have to be a lot of teachers thinking, 'Maybe I don't have a job next year.' Can we afford to have thousands of teachers think to themselves, 'I have to leave the system now because I may not have a job in a few months?' That's going to be a catastrophe," she said. For years, researchers have asked why teachers leave schools — particularly struggling schools. A 2007 paper by a group studying New York City teachers, the Teacher Pathways Project, summarized the major findings this way: "Teachers are more likely to stay in schools in which student achievement is higher and teachers — especially white teachers — are more likely to stay in schools with higher proportions of white students." "Teachers who score higher on tests of academic achievement are more likely to leave," as are teachers from out of town. Less-qualified teachers are more likely to stay at a school than teachers with higher qualifications, "especially if they teach in low-achieving schools."
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