Turnaround

New York

Officials: Temporary stay on turnarounds could derail process

New York

UFT and principals union file suit to stop “turnaround” closures

Principals Union President Ernest Logan and United Federation of Teachers president Michael Mulgrew announce lawsuit over turnarounds. After months of charging that the city's controversial "turnaround" plans reflected an over-reliance on closures to improve schools, the UFT and city principals union are making an about-face. In a lawsuit filed today in State Supreme Court to halt the plans, the unions argue that turnaround doesn't amount to closure at all. That means, they argue, that no process exists in their contracts to guide staffing changes under the federally prescribed school reform strategy. The suit means that three and a half months of heated public hearings and fiery rhetoric is likely to come down in court to a single question: Does giving a school a new name and identification number make it a new school? The city's answer is yes. Under turnaround, 24 schools would close and reopen immediately with new names, many new teachers, and, in many cases, new principals — but the students would stay put. The city is using existing procedures for school closures to smooth things along — in essence collapsing an established multi-year closure process into a single moment. That includes using a clause in the UFT's contract with the city to guide rehiring at the schools. But union officials charged today that not much would change under turnaround. "These are not really closures and therefore they cannot use the contractual procedures that apply to closures," said Adam Ross, the UFT's top lawyer, at a press conference today about the long-promised lawsuit. "The only thing they're changing in these schools is the identification number. It's the same students in the same buildings doing the same things."
New York

With "turnaround" now approved, a high school looks forward

Nico Ryan, a junior, (second from right), shows community members his winning design for a competition sponsored by the Partnership for Student Advocacy. Juniors at the High School for Graphic Communication Arts have a lot on their minds this month. They are putting the finishing touches on photography and graphic design projects, planning their study schedule for Regents exams, and signing up for the SAT. The handful of students who met this morning to show off posters they designed for a local advocacy organization did not rank the school's impending "turnaround" high on their list of worries. As hundreds of students and teachers rallied around the city to protest the Department of Education plan — approved last week — to abruptly close, reopen and rename 24 schools this year, Graphics remained virtually silent. City officials floating closing Graphics last year but backtracked on the idea after large groups of students and graduates made their case for the school's future at a tense meeting with DOE officials. But at its turnaround hearing this spring, just 32 people signed up to speak, compared with nearly 200 at some other schools. Lantigua Sime, a longtime assistant principal at the Hell's Kitchen Career and Technical Education school, said the students have already accepted the turnaround and moved on. "You didn't see any protests, you didn't hear any noise here because we're moving forward," Sime said. "Anyone who is on the bus is on the bus. Anyone who isn't is already waiting for their next one."
New York

The day after: What we learned at last night's turnaround hearing

A teacher from Lehman High School testifies at Thursday's Panel for Educational Policy meeting. The panel voted to close and reopen Lehman. Here are seven things you should know about last night's Panel for Educational Policy meeting, in case you don't have time to read the live-blog we maintained for more than six hours as the panel weighed whether to approve "turnaround" closure plans for 24 schools. 1. There's a new form of school closure in town. Usually, when the Department of Education decides to close a school, it embarks on a multi-year process of phasing out the old school and phasing in a new school, or multiple new schools, in its place. The department has used this process well over 100 times in the last decade and has said it results in stronger student performance. This process is what the panel okayed in February, when it signed off on plans to close or shrink 23 schools. Turnaround is a little different. It speeds up the process so phasing out and in happen at the same time, essentially overnight. It remains to be seen whether years of transition or rapid change can be judged to be more effective at boosting student achievement. The city turned to turnaround this year to make schools eligible for federal funds. But if the city determines that turnaround has advantages over phase-out, the city could use it again in the future. 2. But turnaround isn't really as new as Mayor Bloomberg made it out to be. On the dais, Chancellor Dennis Walcott said that a panel resolution to prohibit turnarounds was inaccurate because it stated that the reform initiative was unknown in New York City. In fact, Walcott said, the city has used turnaround before –  but to a lesser extent. They also have never called their reform efforts turnaround, a term that comes from the Obama administration's school reform vocabulary list. What they have done is close low-performing schools and open new ones in their place that serve all of the same grades and students. When that has happened, in some elementary and middle school overhauls, the principals of the new schools have been bound to hire from the old schools' staff in accordance with the same clause in the city's contract with the teachers union that the city is invoking in the turnaround schools.
New York

Live-blogging the PEP: 24 "turnaround" closures on the agenda

We're stationed right now at the Prospect Heights Campus in Brooklyn, where the Panel for Educational Policy is set to vote tonight on two dozen school closure proposals. It's not the usual venue for a contentious panel meeting — the longest meetings have all been held at Brooklyn Technical High School — but the closures are also not the usual type. Instead of phasing out the schools and slowly opening new ones, the city is proposing to close the schools at the end of the year and reopen them immediately according to a federally prescribed school improvement strategy known as "turnaround." Under the city's proposals, which have elicited intense opposition, the schools would get new names, new teachers, and, often, new principals. For an overview of the controversial policy at the heart of tonight's meeting, check out our two-part primer. And stay tuned for up-to-the-minute coverage of the panel meeting, which Chancellor Dennis Walcott warned earlier today could go late into the night. 11:58 p.m. And it's over: All of the turnaround closure votes are done and have passed. Between February and today, the panel has approved 44 school closures to begin or take place this summer — far more than in any previous year. The panel still has to vote on 17 proposals about school space usage, 10 involving charter schools. They are proceeding quickly through the votes. 11:54 p.m. A teacher from John Dewey High School has broken out in tears behind reporters. According to the thin crowd of teachers who shout the tally after each vote, those who vote yes are "puppets" and those who cast no votes are "heroes." 11:48 p.m. Eight to four is the pattern of the night. The seven mayoral appointees who are present tonight are voting for each turnaround plan, as is the Staten Island borough president's appointee, Diane Peruggia. The four other borough presidents' appointees are voting against each proposal, in a reprise of the vote count from school closure hearings in February and last year. One teacher has taken to shouting, "Let's count ... is it eight?" each time a vote is tallied. Other audience members are joining in the chorus. 11:46 p.m. The voting has begun. The panel members dispatch with Queens representative Dmytro Fedkowskyj's resolution against turnaround quickly, voting 8-4 against it.
New York

Unraveling three and a half months of "turnaround" twists: Part II

Immediately after Mayor Bloomberg announced plans to "turn around" dozens of struggling schools, Department of Education officials began laying the groundwork to implement the complex and politically charged process. Planning is well underway, and it is likely to ratchet up after Thursday night, when the Panel for Educational Policy is set to vote on the proposals to close and reopen the schools with new names and new teachers. Approval is virtually assured, because the panel — whose majority consists of mayoral appointees — has never rejected a city proposal. Yesterday, in a first post about turnaround's past, present, and future, we looked at how the process landed on the panel's agenda. Today, we are summarizing what we know – and what we don't — about what is likely to come next. What will happen to the teachers at the schools? All teachers will have to reapply for their jobs. Under the 18-D process outlined in the city's contract with the union, each principal and a team of teachers chosen by the principal and the union will set hiring guidelines and hire back at least 50 percent of the teachers from the old school who apply and are qualified to work in the new one. Federal turnaround requirements call for the schools to replace at least half of teachers who have been on staff for more than two years, suggesting that the rehiring might have to achieve exactly a 50 percent replacement rate. But city officials have said they are not setting a rehiring quota for turnaround principals.
New York

For skeptical parents, 'turnaround' principal change brings hope

Vivian Selenikas, right, sits with Long Island City High School principal Maria Mamo-Vacacela, left, at the school's closure hearing. Last week, hundreds of parents, teachers, and students crowded Long Island City High School's auditorium for a hearing about the school's planned "turnaround." On Tuesday evening, just a dozen parents attended a meeting to hear directly from the Department of Education's latest pick to run the revamped school. Gathered in the school's band room, they learned that Vivian Selenikas, the proposed school leader, speaks four languages (English, Spanish, Greek and Italian. They found that she started her career in the 1980s as a Spanish teacher at Richmond Hill High School, another school on the turnaround list. And they learned that she believes careful curriculum planning will lift Long Island City out of a slump of low attendance (the rate last year was 80 percent) and poor city progress report grades. They also learned that Selenikas is not afraid to stand up and cha-cha. When the school's cheerleading coach led parents through impromptu dance exercises at the end of the Parent Association meeting, Selenikas joined in. As a Queens network leader, Selenikas is no stranger to the large high school on Broadway, which required help from her and other Department of Education officials last year to resolve massive scheduling problems. "It's important that someone who knew the community and knew the needs of this neighborhood helped to move the school forward, should the decision be made that Long Island City will no longer be Long Island City," she said. But many parents say they are worried that the city is not planning adequately for turnaround. Some say they are wary of the abrupt leadership change, which would be the third in less than four years. The current principal, Maria Mamo-Vacacela, came under fire last year for overhauling most students' schedules two months into the academic year.
New York

Unraveling three and a half months of "turnaround" twists: Part I

Since Mayor Bloomberg announced plans to "turn around" dozens of struggling schools during his State of the City speech in January, the city has hammered out specifics while holding two rounds of raucous meetings at each of the schools that could be overhauled. Meanwhile, community members, politicians, and union officials have argued against turnaround at rally after rally — even as the city's plans evolved. On Thursday, they will air those arguments one more time as the Panel for Educational Policy — which has never rejected a city proposal — sits down to hear public testimony and then vote on 26 turnaround plans. In two posts, we will summarize how the city got here, what turnaround entails, and what could happen after Thursday. First, some recent history: What exactly is turnaround, anyway? Turnaround is one of four federally prescribed school overhaul strategies that cities can adopt to qualify for School Improvement Grants. The SIG program was developed to entice states and school districts to improve the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools after U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan committed to funding overhauls. The program has gotten mixed reviews across the country but still has sent school districts into a frenzy trying to win scarce funds, which can amount to millions of dollars per school for three years. If districts want the funds, they must select one of the four strategies for each school on the list. They can close the schools and disperse their students; partner them with nonprofit groups or turn them into charter schools under "restart"; add new resources and programs under "transformation"; or choose turnaround.