I am not certain, but I think we are still in the stage of form over substance. It is clever of this administration to keep “going in the right direction.” After removing every obstacle and the checks and balances in the system, and with the creation of so many new schools and support for the proliferation of charter schools, students are certainly moving from place to place. It’s hard to hit a moving target! And now that the administration seems to have accomplished its first set of goals – to break up old alliances, micromanage curriculum and the day-to-day operations of schools, build new dependencies and fears, and restructure the delivery of services to schools, it is moving on to a reorganization of the reorganization. After all, it’s hard to hit a moving target!
This next iteration of the agenda, Empowerment Schools, is fascinating when you focus on Joel Klein’s original and, I presume, his ongoing vision of the NYC public school system. He stated many times that he wants to have 1,400 individual schools with 1,400 excellent leaders, but what did that statement actually mean?
It becomes clearer with each move that the agenda is to “corporatize” the public school system. If we follow the road map, we will ultimately see 1,400-plus individual, stand-alone schools. In the corporate view, the Principal will be the CEO, managing every aspect of the school from custodial care and food services to purchasing and contracting for services, managing and supervising personnel and corporate or community partners, managing data, and engaging in “entrepreneurialism” which, to the extent of the creativity and resourcefulness of the Principal, will bring resources into the school. Notwithstanding their primary instructional function, Principals will stand alone in the execution of their corporate responsibilities.
City Hall and Tweed will be left to manage the funding streams, provide oversight of the system and serve as the Board of Directors.
Each success will accrue to their new structural changes and each failure will accrue to the individual Principal. Clever concept! It’s hard to hit a moving target.
Insofar as the new concept of Empowerment Schools or the Empowerment Zone, I am curious to learn more and see the implementation. I wonder about the impact on our members, not only those in the schools, but also those who provide services to the schools. Who would not be in favor of more autonomy! Who would not support “empowerment”! What a motherhood and apple pie soundbite!
So far, management has been less than forthcoming about their plans.
I also wonder why something so potentially great as the Empowerment
Zone would be laced with bribery, coercion and secrecy. Reports from the field tell of telephone calls from corporate funders asking Principals why they haven’t signed up. We’ve heard other things as well. Our charge is to protect the contractual and legal rights of CSA members. It is difficult to do that without information and credible dialogue.
Indeed, we supported the precursor to empowerment schools, the Autonomy Zone, and our members who chose to be part of it. So, too, we will continue to support our members who choose to try something new and perhaps better, but we are mindful of our primary function as a union of professionals.
So, as we move on to the next iteration, what happened to “Children First”?#
Jill Levy is President of the Council of School Supervisors & Administrators.