Saturday, August 30, 2008

Where do you go when your complaints to NYCDOE go unresolved?

Guest blogger James Calantjis ( is a NYC teacher, a long time advocate for School Leadership Teams (SLTs), and the founder of the SLT Empowerment Alliance. The problem of lack of enforcement of state and federal mandates in NYC schools is a chronic one.

When I became an advocate for School Leadership Team empowerment in 2004, I became frustrated trying to get the NYC Department of Education to respond to their lack of compliance with State Educational Law concerning SLTs.

In Dec. 1996 (renewed in 2003), State law mandated that School Leadership Teams be formed in all schools to develop Comprehensive Educational Plans (CEP) and school budgets through a shared decision making process. Parents were to make up 50% of the Team by law, with the balance including teachers, administrators and others. The principal, Parent Association President and UFT Chapter Leader were to be core members.

The problem was that the NYCDOE shut out Teams from any decision making concerning the development of the school’s budget, violating State Education Law. My complaints to NYCDOE went nowhere. Their agenda was to empower principals and neutralize parent and teacher involvement.

I then turned to the NYS Office of School Improvement and Community Services (SICS-NYC) under Associate Commissioner Shelia Evans-Tranumn. This State agency regulates Commissioner’s Regulation 100.11 concerning shared decision making, which is incorporated into the SLT law. It also investigates Title 1 complaints through a formal procedure required by the Federal government.

Federal law requires “substantial parental involvement” with Title 1 programs and funds. In all Title 1 schools and districts, parents are suppose to be consulted by school leadership teams in the spending of Title 1 funds and the planning of programs, especially in the 1% of these funds that are suppose to be used for parent involvement activities. School Leadership Teams then incorporate the programs and spending into the Comprehensive Educational Plan.

The response of SICS-NYC and its coordinator, Sandra Norfleet, was to ask me to contact NYCDOE and follow-up with them. I told them this was unacceptable since NYCDOE was not willing to resolve the issues and I expected NYSED to follow-up until the matter was resolved. When I submitted Title 1 complaints from parents at several schools, including a District 31 Title 1 Committee, stating that parents had been shut out of their right to be involved in Title 1 planning and spending decisions, the State refused to take direct action by following their formal complaint procedure.

The State continued to refer these complaints to NYCDOE without any resolution. Numerous e-mails were sent to Ms. Norfleet and Ms. Tranumn that were mostly ignored. Commissioner Mills was copied on all e-mails.

In frustration, I contacted the Federal Office that supervised the NYC area for Title 1 to try to force NYSED to respond and follow the formal complaint procedure required. While this action forced them to respond again, the complaint procedure was never followed.

During the last four years, I have received letters and e-mails from NYCDOE and NYSED thanking me for my concerns but void of substance, leaving the issues unresolved.

What have I learned? I learned that the deck is stacked against parents and others who make complaints to the State concerning the NYCDOE.

While the State has oversight powers, it is unwilling to enforce State and Federal regulations under the present Commissioner. The State Education Department would rather maintain a friendly relationship with the NYCDOE, than enforce policies that protect the rights of parents. The State Education Department has neglected its responsibilities to ensure that School Leadership Teams are functioning according to law in NYC and that Federal Title 1 parent involvement mandates are being enforced.

--- James Calantjis

See this earlier post about the complaint, Pollicino v. Klein, filed by Marie Pollicino, a Queens parent to the NY State Education Dept. about the Chancellor's unlawful attempt to eviscerate the authority of School Leadership Teams. This complaint was subsequently joined by the United Federation of Teachers. See the UFT's brief, as well as an affidavit from Amina Rachman, special assistant to the the UFT President, Randi Weingarten, that includes a letter from Randi to the Chancellor about the improper process used to revise the regs concerning SLTs, and the illegal result.

1 comment:

tickley said...

Please contact me for further assessment of your complaint. Email me at or phone me at 347-282-1050.


Felicia P. Johnson