Sunday, November 20, 2011

Bloomberg DOE Mismanagement of Queens High School at November PEP Meeting

The November Panel for Educational Policy meeting was held in the Frank Sinatra High School in Astoria, Queens.

Rules of Order

Panel members were provided with headphones to allow us to hear each other in case the noise got too loud. The audience was relatively small so we did not have to resort to the headphones.

Vice Chair Lisette Nieves explained what good behavior would be expected of the audience. She then explained the Chancellor would decide what to do if things got out of order. I reminded her that it was a Panel for Educational Policy meeting and while the Chancellor was a non-voting Panel member, it was her responsibility as Chair to decide what to do. Given the preference of Mayor Bloomberg for increasing use of force to control the Occupy protesters, it is essential that we have clear lines of authority at Panel meetings. We won't have mace, sound cannons, rubber bullets or anything else from Commissioner Kelly's arsenal discharged in a school auditorium, at least if I have any say in the matter.

Chancellor's Report

The Chancellor's report included a discussion of the scheduling problems at Queens Metro High School and Long Island City High School.

The commentary on the debacle transpiring at Queens Metro from Council Member Crowley and PEP member Dmytro Fedkowskyj was distressing. In my response, I suggested the root causes of the problems were the evisceration of the superintendent's role and the rapid fire opening of small schools which have combined effect of introducing many new and poorly supervised principals into the system. A parent from the school confirmed my concerns. She spoke poignantly of liking the Queens Metro principal but feeling that "the safety net had been torn from her". While coping with the principal's responsibilities for the first time, this administrator had been burdened with double the anticipated number of students yet had no guidance or supervision from above. Another parent made clear that there was not even a response to the situation from the DOE until Gotham Schools (report by Rachel Cromidas here) exposed the situation publicly. Council member Crowley spoke in detail about the effects the failures had on the students in the school including her own two sons. The problems at Queens Metro and Long Island City HS are management failures for which Mayor Bloomberg, Chancellor Walcott and Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky should be held accountable. See more from Ed Notes here.

Suspiciously, we heard absolutely nothing about an "imminent" bus strike despite the fact that the mayor and chancellor had already wound up their public relations blitzkrieg for the next morning.

KIPP Charter Co-location

A new KIPP middle school will be co-located with two highly rated public middle schools in Washington Heights. A teacher who only recently obtained her own room so she didn't have to teach from cart, and a number of parents, spoke against the proposal. I pointed out to the DOE that the KIPP network has vast resources to build or lease its own facilities. It was recently awarded a $25 million privatization grant from the conservative Walton foundation and is the largest recipient of funding from the Robin Hood foundation. I asked if KIPP could create its own space rather than take space from successful public schools. Deputy Chancellor Sternberg explained that while KIPP had done some of its own construction, it generally preferred to take Board of Ed space instead and had the full support of the DOE in doing so.

General Counsel Mike Best responded to my question about litigation brought to force the DOE to require charter schools to reimburse the district for use of space as is required by the state education law. He explained that the DOE disagreed and would continue to defend their refusal to accept reimbursement. He also denied that any charter school had ever had a lease agreement with the Board of Ed despite the fact that one with Girls Prep Charter School had been entered into evidence in the case he is currently arguing.

New School for Upper East Side of Manhattan

A new school was approved for the Our Lady of Good Counsel site on east 91st Street. I asked for the Panel to defer the decision for a month in accordance with the District 2 CEC's request for time to consider input from the community and weigh a counter proposal to move PS 77, Lower Lab, to this space. This proposal would allow PS 198 to continue its expansion in the building it shares with PS 77. I cited complaints from many on the Upper East Side that they were told by Marc Sternberg and Elizabeth Rose that the proposal was "a done deal". The Panel was not willing to provide more time.

Finally, I'd like to thank the Broadway Station for their hospitality. I hope we return to Astoria in the near future as the neighborhood offers many excellent dining opportunities.


mdshell said...

Headphones has been given, but they did not come in you as only few audience turned up.

Anonymous said...

Headphones...hmmmnn...this is making a clear and profound statement of tuning out 'the people'. I find it hard to believe that this is the same organization who 'puts children first always' when they bring in headphones to drown out the voices of the parents, teachers, principals and students.

This does make you wonder, doesn't it?