A year ago I testified
before the New York State Senate Majority Task Force on New York
City School Governance. One year later I returned to talk about
the way things are going at Tweed Courthouse. What follows is
based upon that testimony:
We are still sounding
cautionary notes about Mayoral control and its implications. Our
continued monitoring of urban centers shows mayoral control alone
does not equal improved student performance.
We also cautioned
a change in governance should not be predicated on the personality,
politics or management skills of any one individual. A child’s
education should remain outside the sphere of politics as much
When the current
Mayor took over, this union was optimistic we’d see streamlined
management, decreased administrative overload and stronger relationships.
We were naïve.
Today, the new,
“improved” Department of Education (DOE) bombards school principals
with e-mail messages. A complaint that nine “Tweedies” sent e-mails
with directives to Principals only led to three more people joining
communications take principals away from instructional leadership
and managing school resources. If this never-ending stream of
overlapping orders is an example of corporate mentality and process,
and administrators know the critical importance of a sense of
community in a school. Strong school leaders encourage the participation
of faculty, parents, community members and students in the development
and implementation of ideas. They also expect their leaders to
model these essential values and are keenly disappointed.
For example, Tweed
announced the closure of all district offices by June 30; some
are already closed. Some have literally watched the walls come
crashing down as construction crews ripped apart their offices.
Our members have not been told whether they will still have offices
and all requests for information have been ignored. In fact, no
one at Tweed Palace responds to questions from legislators, community
leaders, child advocates or parents. Our new heads of the school
system bellow about their great successes in the business world
yet their vision of management seems autocratic, secretive and
impersonal. I suppose it works if you’re making widgets. And if
we think our students are widgets, we have succeeded.
The Mayor’s plan
for special education seems to subvert the legal requirement for
community school districts. Thirty-two State mandated Committees
on Special Education are reduced to 10. And the clinical supervisory
support provided by committee staff members will be eliminated.
Children and employees
are paying a dear price to reorganize the DOE. The promised “savings”
come from laying off school aides, education paraprofessionals
and CSA supervisors and administrators. Many of these cuts are
simply to reduce union jobs but these employees insure quality
classroom instruction, safety and security.
We see the separation
of operations and instruction as only leading to the creation
of a more tangled and complex bureaucratic web.
also now been given additional bosses. The new Local Instructional
Supervisors who will help evaluate principals as well as literacy
and math coaches will be SENT to schools to work WITH, not FOR,
principals and assistant principals.
management system only increases the micromanagement of a principal’s
job, creating tighter shackles on creativity and leadership skills.
Our schools are
essential to the development of our children. A closed system
in the public domain is detrimental to our children’s welfare.
In this time when transparency is one of the newest buzzwords
in governance, we have managed to create a secretive monster at
Tweed. Our children will pay for this for a generation to come.
It is time to stop the nonsense now.#
Levy is the President of the Council of School Supervisors and
Update, Inc., P.O. Box 20005, New York, NY 10001.
Tel: (212) 481-5519. Fax: (212) 481-3919.Email: email@example.com.
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