Cleaning Out the Augean Stables and Restocking the Shelves: Chancellor Brooks Lays Out His Agenda ,,,, (Sort Of)

On Wednesday Chancellor David Banks stepped up to the podium for his first substantive speech, the technology failed, Banks muttered, “This is what we get in a $38 billion budget.” … not the best symbolism

The chancellor has been dropping hints, a thinner bureaucracy; his predecessor added a layer, executive superintendents, pushing the chancellor further away from schools. Banks announced he was abolishing the position, and, distinct superintendents would have to reapply for their jobs.

Shortly after Mayor Adams announced Banks as school leader Dan Weisberg was selected as the deputy chancellor, the # 2.   Weisberg announced his staff, most of whom with no roots in the city, and, I blogged here.

The Department of Education headquarters is the Tweed Courthouse; Mayor Bloomberg abandoned the former headquarters, 110 Livingston Street, and moved the Department of Education headquarters to the magnificent building adjacent to City Hall named after William Marcy Tweed (1823-78) the leader of Tammany Hall. Maybe I wouldn’t have continued to use the name Tweed,

 … the construction cost of the New York County [Tweed] Courthouse, begun in 1861, grew to nearly $13 million—about $178 million in 2017 dollars, and nearly twice the cost of the Alaska Purchase in 1867. A carpenter was paid $360,751 (roughly $4.9 million today) for one month’s labor in a building with very little woodwork … a plasterer got $133,187 ($1.82 million) for two days’ work”.[21] Tweed bought a marble quarry in Sheffield, Massachusetts, to provide much of the marble for the courthouse at great profit to himself. After the Tweed Charter to reorganize the city’s government was passed in 1870, four commissioners for the construction of the New York County Courthouse were appointed. The commission never held a meeting, though each commissioner received a 20% kickback from the bills for the supplies.

Banks is cleaning house, no more executive superintendents and changing many of the over 40 regional superintendents, picking the “best and the brightest,” or, following in the Tweed tradition, rewarding obedient acolytes?

The speech was filled with tidbits, what would a thinner governance structure look like? One of Dan Weisberg’s deputies ran the Affinity District.  Norm Fruchter at the NYU Metro Center described in detail here and I described here and New Visions for Public Schools describes here.

The structure of the Adams/Banks Department of Education is undoubtedly the most significant change; it has received very little ink.

Banks tantalized: principals would have more authority: over what?

A collaborative program called PROSE gives schools substantial latitude in bending Union and Department regulations, the principal, the school union leader and the staff apply and a rigorous vetting process evaluates the application.

The Progressive Redesign Opportunity Schools for Excellence (PROSE) program was established as part of the contract between the UFT, CSA and the DOE. The PROSE program enables schools who have a demonstrated record of effective school leadership, collaboration, and trust to implement innovative practices outside of existing rules. 

Is the chancellor expanding the PROSE concept?

In spite of many loud demands the chancellor deferred any decision re virtual schools and announced a work group to plan for September.

Banks dangled other options; specific courses can be virtual, no more snow days, simply a virtual day.  We used to use the term, Distance Learning, if only a handful of students want a course students from a cluster of school could take the course online.

Yes, there would be Gifted and Talented classes, the plans are underway. Would the Department return to a centrally administered test, or teacher judgment, or, the Renzulli Method, teaching gifted children in a heterogeneous classroom? The chancellor would be opening additional specialized high schools not utilizing the Specialized HS Admissions test. Would the local CECs determine admission requirements for Gifted & Talented classes?

An expansion of Career and Technical Education with internships in collaboration with the private sector is in the works. The NYS Department of Education diploma requirements are an obstacle; the current Graduation Measures efforts are moving forward, I’ll blog about the progress in the near future.

The chancellor mentioned schools for dyslexic students, the education community favors integrated settings not separating students with handicaps into separate schools,

Two days later ,on Friday, the Assembly and Senate Education committees held a hearing on Mayoral Control, the current plan sunsets on June 30th and Governor Hochul included a four year extension in her budget proposal, a proposal that might be in trouble.

Many electeds attended and over fifty speakers added their three minutes of wisdom, including about half the Community Education Council leaders.

Adams, from his car (he wasn’t driving) reiterated what he has said over and over again, to hold the mayor accountable, and he wants to be held accountable, he must be able to appoint a majority to the Panel for Education Priorities, the NYC school board.

Banks, back on the stand, was grilled by Senator Mayer, the chair of the Education Committee and Senator Liu, the chair of the New York City Education Committee.

Beyond the question of mayoral control was the role of the Community Education Councils: Banks announced that the role of CECs would be clarified and expanded; currently the CECs interview; however the superintendent selects the principal (Circular C-30) and while the CEC again interviews for superintendent (Circular C-37), the chancellor selects: Banks promised the role of the CEC in the principal; and superintendent selection process would be expanded.

The theme of the speakers, we don’t like mayoral control, if continued perhaps one or two years to allow a task force to create another system; although there was no clarity over the new system, except, it should be parent based,

The public comment and archived video is all online here.

Every CEC speaker opposed mayoral control, the only question was whether it should be extended for one or two years to allow a task force to craft a successor plan, a board with an elected parent majority.

Governor Hochul included a four year extension of mayoral control in her preliminary budget, without consulting with the legislature, disrespecting the legislature.

Mayor de Blasio attended the 2019 hearing on extending mayoral control and testified at length Mayor Adams, five minutes from his car between stops, again, disrespectful.

All the elected CEC chairs rejected mayoral control, the only agreement, a successor plan envisioning a board with a majority of elected parent representatives, not the current single parent member,

Senator Mayer asked about changes placed in the law in 2019 to expand the parent role, the parents reps nor the chancellor seemed to know about the changes.

Remember the rule: all politics is local

Governor Hochul, a White woman from Buffalo is running against a Black man from Brooklyn and a White man from Long Island, Politics will determine her decision: how can she maximize her support in the June 28th Democratic primary?   Satisfy the newly elected mayor or appeal to public school parent voters in New York City?

The days are getting longer.

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