John Adams High School

Code Switch

'Dramatic Intervention'

New York

Fearing turnaround, Queens schools seek borough prez's help

Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and Dmytro Fedkowskyj, her appointee to the Panel for Educational Policy, held a hearing Monday night for families and teachers at the eight would-be turnaround schools in Queens. Dozens of teachers, parents, students, and at least one principal from the eight Queens schools facing "turnaround" say they have brought their concerns to district superintendents and other Department of Education officials this month to no effect. On Monday evening, they found a more sympathetic audience: Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, who vowed to push back against the city's plans to close the schools. Marshall's uncharacteristically aggressive promise came at a meeting at Queens Borough Hall that her office organized about the city's plan to "turn around" 33 struggling schools. Under the plan, which Mayor Bloomberg announced last month as a way to secure federal funding, the schools would close and reopen this summer with new names and at least half their staffs replaced. Marshall sat before a standing-room-only crowd with Dmytro Fedkowskyj, her appointee to the Panel for Educational Policy, the citywide school board that decides the fate of schools proposed for closure. As a panel member, Fedkowskyj has emerged as a frequent critic of the mayor's school policies, signaling Marshall's endorsement, but she has typically been soft-spoken on education issues. That was not the case on Monday. Marshall often clapped and cheered as she listened to dozens of teachers and families defend their schools. Occasionally she even interjected to describe how her respect for teachers developed over years of working as an early childhood educator.
New York

Panel: To serve poor children, a need to go beyond academics

To help poor students do better in school, what comes first: tackling out-of-school factors tied to poverty, like health care or housing, or boosting academic offerings at school? A panel yesterday offered a novel answer: Neither. Supports should target students in school, through teachers, they said, but they shouldn't be purely academic. Those supports, panel members said, range from teaching students skills to calm down during a rage to helping parents access social services they might not even know they are eligible for. The panel featured leaders from three city organizations devoted to providing these supports: Drema Brown, the vice president of education at the Children's Aid Society, Pamela Cantor, president of the non-profit Turnaround for Children, and Robert Hughes, president of New Visions for Public Schools, as well as James Shelton, the Obama administration official who heads up innovation efforts. In the past, “Words like ‘social and emotional development’ of children were in the margins, nice to do, but not essential,” Cantor said. “A conversation is being framed today that we all can get behind, that a high-performing, high-poverty school has to do a lot—a lot more than is asked of schools to do." At one point, a person in the audience praised the direction of the conversation but asked the panel why their topic — students' social and emotional needs — gets short shrift in the education debate. "Well, our communications strategy sucks!" Shelton responded, to laughter from the audience.