NYC EDUCATION LEADERS REFLECT ON THE NEW SCHOOL YEAR
A Year of Challenges & Opportunities
The 2007-2008 school year brings both formidable challenges and exciting new opportunities for school administrators. The relief of having a contract is tempered by trepidation over how the new reorganization will affect our day-to-day roles as instructional leaders. The anticipation of greater control over our schools is coupled with anxiety about the level and quality of available resources and expertise. The key to success this year will be all about collaborations between administrators, their school communities and the DOE.
Ensuring support, resources, and a clearly defined accountability system are at the forefront of our union’s priorities in these first few months. The latest reorganization of the system has forced all of us—not just Principals, but also Assistant Principals, Supervisors and Education Administrators—to make adjustments. Many questions remain and the reaction to the new structure is decidedly mixed at this point. However, CSA and its members have never shied away from high expectations and accountability procedures, and we have been supportive of the DOE’s recent initiatives thus far. The summer has been spent working closely with the DOE on several fronts. For example, the criteria and procedures that go into the Principal Performance Review are being reworked and realigned with the DOE’s school report cards, progress reports and quality reviews. Our Executive Principal program, which allows select Principals to earn an extra $25,000 a year by volunteering to work in low-performing schools, is also moving forward.
It is vital that school leaders, who are responsible for advancing student achievement throughout the city, be given the proper supports and authority—real authority—to use their expertise and judgment to direct resources and personnel. It is also essential that administrators’ voices are an integral part of policy-making and decision-making. Our members’ skills and knowledge must be part of the equation. If these matters are addressed appropriately, CSA members will rise to the occasion and guide their schools smoothly and effectively. Success will be rewarded in a variety of ways, including Performance Differentials, which will soon top out at $25,000 and other programs such as the Rewarding Achievement (REACH) Pilot Program, which will give cash awards to students, teachers, principals and schools based on enrollment and scores in AP courses.
New advances in data collection and data management are also on the minds of school administrators, as is the importance of having quality relationships with community superintendents. ARIS (Achievement Reporting and Innovation System) will soon be a key component in each of our schools. However, the true nature of a school and the individuality of students cannot be illustrated in spreadsheets on a computer screen, so it will be up to Community Superintendents to be actively engaged in every school community in every district. Those relationships are very important. After all, data by itself is not a means to reform. Rather, it should be a tool that principals, assistant principals and teachers can work with collaboratively and creatively, learn patterns, identify targets, set goals, and develop new instructional strategies. It is imperative that the ARIS system is accurate and that principals and assistant principals are trained in how to use the information available to them. It is equally important that the new data collection and analysis responsibilities do not adversely affect the time school leaders spend in the classrooms and halls, engaging with students and staff.
For parents, School Leadership Teams and Community Super–intendents will be the key links to input and access. Along with their oversight of principals, school budgets and discipline, Community Superintendents are required by state law to communicate and meet regularly with all parent associations, and provide information so that associations are provided with information concerning matters of pupil achievement. They are there to help you. Parental involvement on the school level includes having a strong School Leadership Team, and CSA is committed to that concept. Our Executive Leadership Institute will be conducting workshops with Principals on how to build and improve SLTs.
Beyond the reorganization, a number of issues are priorities for school administrators, including the school governance law and No Child Left Behind, expanding and enhancing early childhood education (specifically the wonderful programs in our city-funded Day Care centers), reforming the Taylor Law, and protecting the pension and health benefits of both our active and retired members.
Despite the numerous challenges ahead, we all have the opportunity to play a role in providing a great education for our children. Amazing things are happening in our schools, and it is in no small part due to the commitment and dedication of administrators, teachers and parents who go above and beyond every day to make a difference in children’s lives. By working together, we will achieve great things.#