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March 2, 2010
Looking back on school closure vote, officials question rationale
More than a month after the citywide school board voted to close 19 schools, City Council and Comptroller John Liu are reexamining the criteria that city officials used to declare the schools failures. Liu, who campaigned for comptroller on the promise of auditing the Department of Education's data, announced today that his office is beginning an investigation of the DOE's progress reports — the annual report cards that assign each school a letter grade, largely based on students' test scores. Later this afternoon, the City Council's education committee held a hearing where members accused department officials of targeting large, struggling high schools without considering what would become of their current students. Department officials defended the schools they chose to close, citing the schools' abysmal graduation rate. "This is not a random list," said Deputy Chancellor for Strategy and Innovation, John White. "These are the lowest performers even considered among a set of schools where students are not achieving at acceptable levels."
September 16, 2009
Speaking to UFT, Mulgrew calls for a new contract, and fast
The city's teachers union offered the first glimpse of its contract demands tonight, but remained silent on the possible pay raise many have predicted — and on whether the union plans to sweeten its chances at a good contract by endorsing Michael Bloomberg. The glimpse came at a meeting of the delegate assembly, the union's ruling body, where members were given a seven page list of demands that fell under categories such as compensation and health. Union president Michael Mulgrew addressed the crowd, which spilled out of the room and into the hallway of 52 Broadway, the headquarters of the United Federation of Teachers. The event was closed to the press, and union members were told not to share the seven-page document with reporters. According to several in attendance, Mulgrew lectured on the grim state of the city's economy and the need to get the union's new contract finalized quickly. One teacher, who asked to remain anonymous, said Mulgrew seemed to be pushing the union to reach a deal quickly, before the economy worsens. "They're presenting it like there's this brief window of time, because of the economy, in which to rush the contract through," he said.
September 16, 2009
Winners Liu, De Blasio and Dromm drop by UFT (updated)
Council Member John Liu said he credits the UFT with helping him enter a runoff in the comptroller race. Winners in yesterday's primary elections dropped in on a UFT Delegate Assembly this afternoon, where I am hanging out, waiting for the contract negotiation news. Council Members Bill de Blasio and John Liu, who are both heading into runoffs in their respective races, for public advocate and comptroller, dropped by, as did Daniel Dromm, the teacher who is running for City Council in Queens. Dromm defeated Helen Sears, a sitting Council member, in yesterday's primary. Liu told me that he owes the teachers union for his victory yesterday. "Teachers have a massive impact. They have delivered in ways I could never have expected," he said.
September 1, 2009
Teachers union will endorse Liu for city comptroller today
Comptroller candidate John Liu (image via ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/7726351@N07/2553290413/##Flickr##) Choosing its first favorite for a citywide race, the United Federation of Teachers will endorse John Liu for comptroller today at noon. A recent poll shows comptroller candidate Melinda Katz has a modest lead over Liu, her main rival, though the four-way race remains tight, making union endorsements particularly important. In a phone interview this morning, UFT president Michael Mulgrew said that Liu had impressed the teachers union with his work on the City Council's Education Committee. "He went out of the way to make sure he did his homework. He really knew all of the subjects," Mulgrew said. "His homework that he would do on the city contracts was quite impressive — that he would know all the internal pieces and got into them, and the questioning of the no bid contracts." Mulgrew added that Liu's business background and his work as chair of the Council's Transportation Committee — he has frequently criticized the Department of Education's re-writing of the school bus routes in 2007 — had been an additional draw.
August 31, 2009
Advocacy group vows to carry control fight into new school year
The fight over mayoral control isn't over, according to a stalwart group of activists who convened a meeting Saturday to plan how to increase local control of city schools. Comptroller candidate John Liu and mayoral candidate Tony Avella joined an energized and sometimes raucous crowd of around 70 public school parents, teachers and advocates at the launch event for the Coalition for Public Education, held at the lower Manhattan headquarters of the municipal union District Council 37. The coalition could be one legacy of this spring's protracted debate over school governance. That debate was finally settled, at least for the next six years, when Gov. Paterson signed into law a new bill that continues a modified version of mayoral control. Vowing to keep the fight against mayoral control going into the new school year, coalition organizers announced rallies in four boroughs for the first day of school next week. "The struggle continues on this battle," said Esmeralda Simmons, director of the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College. "Do not be fooled into thinking that because something has happened in Albany, there's nothing else that can be done."
August 11, 2009
Klein: "Everybody's behind" the city's retention policies
Joel Klein. (File photo) Joel Klein stayed positive about his reputation in an interview last night on NY1, even as host Dominic Carter played two different clips showing elected officials (both candidates for citywide office) criticizing the schools chancellor. Klein chalked up any complaints he's received to politics — and said President Obama is receiving the same kind of flak on the national stage, for implementing a similar education program. "He's putting those out there, and you know what's happening? You get push back," Klein said. (I put in a call to David Cantor, Klein's spokesman, and I'll write to Klein too, because I'm curious what push back he's referencing. Both teachers unions have largely supported the Race to the Top stimulus fund, if tentatively. Maybe Klein has in mind Diane Ravitch? Or could he have read Leonie Haimson's Huffington Post piece yesterday, "Arne Duncan Has Become An Embarrassment"?) Klein was particularly sanguine about the proposed extension of the city's so-called "social promotion" ban announced yesterday. "When I came on here in 2004, when the mayor ended social promotion, you had the pictures — everybody was demonstrating, and all the noise," Klein said. "Now it is 2009 and we have ended social promotion in every one of these grades, and you know what? You don't hear noise any more, Dominic. You know why? People know what's right for kids."
April 6, 2009
City Council moves to regulate city's placement of charter schools
The former chair of the City Council education committee, Eva Moskowitz, talked to the current chair, Robert Jackson, before today's hearing on charter schools. Moskowitz runs a charter school network, while Jackson said he is skeptical of charter schools. (<em>GothamSchools</em>, Flickr) City Council members today moved to regulate the process of placing charter schools in public school buildings, introducing a resolution that they said would avoid conflicts between families at neighborhood schools and new charter schools placed inside of them. Right now, Department of Education officials offer some charter schools space in public school buildings on their own, but the space-sharing arrangements are sometimes contentious. (Charter schools receive public funding, but operate outside of the DOE watch and are not guaranteed space in public school buildings.) The Council resolution would force the department to follow some kind of a regular procedure — probably involving a requirement to work with members of a neighborhood — before it could place a charter school in a public building. "Make community stakeholders part of that process," City Council Member Maria del Carmen Arroyo, of the Bronx, said. "You fail miserably at including the people that have to deal with the fallout of the decisions that you make." Council Member Jessica Lappin of Manhattan, who chairs the council's work on public land use issues, said that charter schools should be placed in the same way that new traditional public schools are placed. "I have worked very hard to bring community members, principals, and the Department of Education together so that we can resolve the issues that inevitably arise," Lappin said. Why, she asked, shouldn't charter schools be placed in the same way? Testifying before the council, Department of Education officials said they agree that they need to improve the way that they bring in new schools, but they declined to support the resolution that would force them to follow a new procedure when doing it.
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