Elaine Gorman

New York

Students and staff say, again, that Lehman is on the upswing

As Elaine Gorman, a top official in the Department of Education's Division of Portfolio Planning, looks on, seniors Lindita Nuculli and Samantha Calero talk about Lehman High School's strengths. For the third time in a year, students and teachers at Herbert H. Lehman High School lined up Monday night to tell city officials why the school should remain open. They were there a year ago, when the city first shortlisted the school for possible closure. And they were back there this spring for a spate of meetings and protests over the city's plan to close and reopen the school according to a federally prescribed overhaul process — a process Lehman only narrowly escaped. Yesterday evening, Department of Education officials returned to Lehman to warn that closure is on the horizon again. At an emotional "early engagement" meeting—a meeting between officials, school staff, community members that is the first step in the closure process—current and former teachers and students defended the large, East Bronx school, arguing that the Department of Education's reform policies are to blame for Lehman's decline. Department officials have held early engagement meetings at Lehman twice before, but the school ultimately remained open. In a presentation at the beginning of the meeting, principal Rose Lobianco said the school is already on the slow and steady path to improvement, thanks to the creation of a small learning academy structure that splits students into several "academies," with their own assistant principal leaders, based on academic interest.
New York

City: "Turnaround" schools won't have to replace half their staff

Department of Education officials are telling principals of schools slated for "turnaround" not to worry about quotas when they decide which teachers to hire for next year. This guidance conflicts with the federal guidelines for the reform model, which require a school to replace at least half its teachers. It also contradicts the words of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other city officials, who have done little to dispute this figure before alarmed teachers, students and parents at meetings held throughout the city. The 50 percent figure has been repeated again and again in months since Bloomberg's announcement, at forums, protests, union press conferences, and city presentations. Superintendent Aimee Horowitz told families and staff at Brooklyn's William E. Grady High School and Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School that "up to 50 percent of the remaining faculty can be re-hired," while at least 50 percent will have to leave. At a meeting of the Citywide Council on High Schools, Deputy Chancellor Elaine Gorman distributed a presentation that said part of the plan was to "re-hire no more than 50 percent." But behind the scenes, department officials have been telling principals to ignore this requirement. They said they have told principals at the 33 schools to hire the best teachers available without fretting over whether they are new or would be returning. "Our goal is for schools to hire and recruit the most qualified teachers who meet the high standards set by their principals — not to remove a certain percentage of staff," said Deputy Chancellor Marc Sternberg. "As that happens, we will work with the state to secure millions of dollars in funding that these new schools need and deserve." Principals who have been working on developing plans for the replacement schools say they plan to follow the department’s instructions and are anticipating replacing far fewer teachers than 50 percent. Multiple principals said they were expecting to replace about a quarter of their teachers over the summer.
New York

City officials are short on answers at Brooklyn turnaround forum

Wearing red shirts that read "We Believe in John Dewey," a row of teachers from the South Brooklyn high school give a student's testimony a standing ovation. Teachers and students from Brooklyn schools proposed for turnaround brought protest signs and pointed questions to a Monday night meeting with city officials — and left with few concrete answers. As representatives of most Brooklyn schools proposed for turnaround pled their cases in front of city officials tasked with closing an extra 33 schools this year, members of the overflow audience interrupted with shout-outs, standing ovations, and, at one point, sustained chanting of "Free the 33!" School communities have argued against the turnaround plans in tandem before, at an event in Queens and a meeting of the citywide high schools parent group. But this is the first time schools have been invited to testify in front of city officials masterminding the changes. Officials also heard for the first time from schools that have been almost completely silent about the reform plans. Elaine Gorman, the Department of Education official overseeing turnaround, opened the meeting, organized by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, with an overview of the proposals, which would call for each school to replace at least half its staff and to be closed and re-opened with a new name. Then representatives from the 11 Brooklyn turnaround schools were invited to give testimonies about their schools. John Dewey High School teachers, parents, and students reprised their frequent protests by turning out in full-force; at least 100 of them sat in the audience sporting their cheerleading outfits or T-shirts in the school's signature red, and lept into standing ovations each time a Dewey student or teacher spoke. And a half-dozen William Maxwell High School teachers, unhappy that their A grade on the city's annual progress report would not be enough to protect their school from closure, waved poster-sized versions of the report card and the letter A when it was their turn to speak. They were joined by a slightly more subdued group of parents and teachers from Sheepshead Bay High School, the Cobble Hill School for American Studies, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School, and a lone middle school student from the School for Global Studies, who spoke about the school's co-location with a charter school.