Tuesday, June 30, 2009

School Governance in NYC II - by Jacob Morris

School Governance in New York City II
From Control to Contempt by Jacob Morris

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely" – Lord Acton
"Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it" - William Pitt

Personally I do not like the word Power, in my view, Power is an Illusion and Responsibility is a much healthier concept for us to keep foremost in our mind as something we value. All too many people have become careless in their interchangeable use of the words Power, Control, and Authority. Actually, the terms Control and Authority are much more precisely understood and utilized in general discourse for this analysis.What is Control? Is it like an on/off switch, or can it work on a sliding scale? Then there's the question of what is it you are controlling, a machine or something that is alive? And lastly, what are the limits? When do we cross the line towards disrespect and/or contempt for whatever it is, man or machine that we have control over, or responsibility for?

Let there be no doubt, it is just as possible to disrespect a machine, (and have it breakdown on you) as it is to disrespect Human Beings and also whatever Panel, Team, Entity, the function of which those human beings happen to be participating in.Ultimately, if someone holds (like the Mayor or the Chancellor for example), the absolute authority over someone to dismiss them at will, that translates into an example of arbitrary and capricious Absolute Power. This is not a healthy situation, either for its Possessor or the Human Beings serving in such a state of discretionary limbo. If you appointed them to this position, to advise on educational and issues policies, because you believe in their qualities of Knowledge and Intelligence, then what are you afraid of? What it may be is that you do not believe in discussion or the integrity of the people you appoint, and when Push comes to Shove, what you are really saying is that you want them to be Robots.

In a Transportation System, like a poorly made car, people when they stop believing in its quality and utility, stop buying it or riding in it (Sound familiar, GM & Chrysler?). In a School Governance System, when people stop believing in its credibility, they stop participating in it, they hold it in ridicule and they call it a rubber stamp.

Given the critical societal importance in which we hold the quality of decision-making regarding the education of our children, to give such arbitrary and capricious absolute power over the individuals serving on such an ostensibly valuable Educational Policy Panel will inevitably lead to the holders of that power viewing those Individuals, the Panel and the functions of that Panel in Contempt.What do we want? The answer is "Fixed Terms", and the ability to place items on to the Agenda. Even if the Mayor has a majority of appointments, as long as the members have fixed terms, they need be able to maintain some reasonable level of personal Intelligence and Integrity in regards to the discussion of various Educational Policy Issues that come before them in their roles as members of the Panel.Also, in approaching this from the perspective of quality team functioning, provision for independent and completive Professional Development must be delineated clearly by Legislative Authority as a resource for the Panel to render quality decisions on the quality of our Children's Schooling and to increase the credibility in which the Panel's deliberations are viewed by our Community.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Open Meetings Law and SLT's


41 State Street, Albany, New York 12231
(518) 474-2518
Fax (518) 474-1927


June 22, 2004

The staff of the Committee on Open Government is authorized to issue advisory opinions. The ensuing staff advisory opinion is based solely upon the information presented in your correspondence.


I have received your letter concerning meetings of School Leadership Teams ("SLT’s") and school based management teams operating in New York City.

By way of background, in 2003 you questioned the status of the entities in question under the Open Meetings Law, and I prepared an advisory opinion in response. An element of the opinion suggested that the time of the meetings of your interest, 7:20 a.m., conflicted with the judicial construction of the Open Meetings Law. Based upon that advice, you initiated a grievance with the New York City Board of Education and received the following response from the Office of Counsel:

"The Open Meetings Law states that ‘public business be performed in an open and public manner.’ Section 2590-h15(b-1)(ii) of the Education Law has been amended to require that the school leadership teams hold their monthly meetings at a time that is convenient for the parent representatives. Thus, if the parents on the SLT have agreed that their meeting will be held at 7:30 a.m this is consistent with law. If other people wish to attend it is their obligation to make themselves available at the time the team has chosen to meet."

From my perspective, while participation by parent members of school based management teams is clearly a consideration, the ability of others to attend is also relevant.

As indicated in the opinion addressed to you on December 29, 2003, the entities at issue are, in my view, "public bodies" required to comply with the Open Meetings Law. They are creations of law, and it is my understanding that they are the New York City entities that carry out the shared decision making functions required to be accomplished pursuant to §100.11 of the regulations promulgated by the NYS Commissioner of Education.

The provision cited by the Office of Counsel does not, in my opinion, affect the obligation of an SLT or a school based management team to comply with the Open Meetings Law. Section 2590-h(15)(b)(ii) requires that school board management teams shall:

"hold at least one meeting per month during the school year. Each monthly meeting shall be held at a time that is convenient for the parent representatives."

As the foregoing relates to the Open Meetings Law, I believe every statute, including the Open Meetings Law, must be implemented in a manner that gives reasonable effect to its intent. In the only decision that dealt with meetings held as early as those held by the body of your interest, the court found that the entity at issue failed to comply with the Open Meetings Law.
To reiterate a point offered in last year’s opinion, the intent of the Open Meetings Law is clearly stated in §100 as follows:

"It is essential to the maintenance of a democratic society that the public business be performed in an open and public manner and that the citizens of this state be fully aware of an able to observe the performance of public officials and attend and listen to the deliberations and decisions that go into the making of public policy. The people must be able to remain informed if they are to retain control over those who are their public servants. It is the only climate under which the commonweal will prosper and enable the governmental process to operate for the benefit of those who created it."

In short, the Open Meetings Law confers a right upon the public to attend and listen to the deliberations of public bodies and to observe the performance of public officials who serve on such bodies.

Further, in the decision to which reference was made involving meetings held at 7:30 a.m., it was stated that:

"It is...apparent to this Court that the scheduling of a board meeting at 7:30 a.m. -- even assuming arguendo that such meetings were properly noticed and promptly conducted -- does not facilitate attendance by members of the public, whether employed within or without the home, particularly those with school age or younger children..." (Matter of Goetchius v. Board of Education, Supreme Court, Westchester County, New York Law Journal, August 8, 1996).

While meetings held at 7:20 a.m. may be convenient for parent members of an SLT or school based management team, many others interested in attending may be unable to do so because they have small children, because of work schedules, commuting, and other matters that might effectively preclude them from attending meetings held so early in the morning. In consideration of those persons and the holding by the court, I continue to believe that it would be unreasonable and inconsistent with law for an SLT or school based management team to conduct meetings at or near 7:20 a.m.

I hope that I have been of assistance.


Robert J. Freeman
Executive Director

Monday, June 22, 2009

CEP Planning Conference -July 17,2009

2009 Summer
Comprehensive Educational Planning Conference:
Planning for Success
Sponsored by The Office of School Improvement and
The Office of English Language Learners, Division of Teaching and Learning
• Learn effective strategies for
planning for school success from
well‐known author Mike

• Attend clinics conducted by the
Office of School Improvement,
Office of English Language
Learners, Division of
Accountability and Achievement
Resources, SSO/ISC/CFN partners,
and Office for Family
Engagement and Advocacy.
Clinics will address the various
components of the cycle of
continuous school improvement,
as well as specific parts of the

• Receive assistance in developing
SMART Goals, Action Plans,
Language Allocation Policies,
Parent Involvement Policies and
School‐Parent Compacts.

• Receive feedback on your
school’s preliminary CEP.

• Receive training for the iPlan CEP
development tool.
Friday, July 17, 2009
8:30 a.m. — 5:00 p.m.
New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge
333 Adams Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201
About the keynote: Mike Schmoker has worked on school and district
improvement, assessment, curriculum and staff development as a central
administrator in two school districts. His practical ideas and key strategies
have provided school communities with the tools to become “assessment
literate,” keeping them on the path of con‐
tinuous school improvement. His conceptual
framework emphasizes teamwork, goals,
performance data, accelerating results, and
drawing on the knowledge base, as well as
the need to act through broad‐based leader‐
ship. All conference participants will receive
a complimentary copy of Mike Schmoker’s
latest book, Results Now: How We Can
Achieve Unprecedented Improvements in Teaching and Learning.

Who should attend? Principals, Teachers, Parent Leaders, and other
School Leadership Team Members, as well as Network Leaders and
other non‐school‐based staff.

How do you register? DOE employees can register on Protraxx at
http://pd.nycoit.org. Parents who are members of School Leadership
Teams can register at: http://schools.nyc.gov/Offices/OFEA. For further
information, please contact the Office of School Improvement at
212‐374‐5757. This a free professional development opportunity that is
not to be missed!
Constituents from school
communities will have an
opportunity to work with the
keynote speaker and represen‐
tatives from Central Office in
developing their 2009‐10
Comprehensive Education Plan
(CEP), gaining a deeper
understanding of the
continuous improvement
planning process.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

NYC School Governance- by Jacob Morris

School Governance in New York City
The Four Options

The Essence of the Problem
1).Is that they Control the Agenda -
Which means they don’t have to Listen to things they don’t want to Hear,
Even when they have an overwhelming Majority of the Panel Votes
2). The Disabling of the Grassroots Participatory Structure
(SLT’s, CEC’s, PTA’s, & CPAC)
(Substandard & Boring Professional Development Disempowers & Disrespects)
3). As well as the Bypassing of the Panel (PEP) designated under
State Law to advise on Policy – leading to bad Decisions,
And problems with the Credibility of their Data Reporting -
Such as the “Push Out” Problem and H.S. Graduation Rates
Or the number of children who have Asthma who are retained in Grade

1). The rerouting and elimination of School Bus Routes
in the Middle of Winter!!!
2). The School Leadership Team Regulation Change
Which was found to be in Violation of State Law

The Key Top Down Option Questions
Mayoral Majority or Minority?
Advisory or Policy Making?
**Who is the Chair and who sets the Agenda?**

A Healthy & Functioning Structure
Must have Structural Linkage from the Grassroots levels
To the Citywide Policy Making Panel

Outline of a Systemic Structure that is Naturally Aligned & Facilitates Greater Responsiveness Along with the Flow of Information from the Bottom Up as well as the Top Down
(by Jacob Morris – on behalf of The School Leadership Team Empowerment Alliance)
1) That the UFT School Governance Proposal is an excellent foundation to build upon.
2) Given that the prior structure of Community School Districts has been in effect destroyed by the Bloomberg/Klein Administration; we have an opportunity to establish a new structure of Community School Districts that is naturally aligned with an existing, healthy, respected, and functioning Community Board District Structure:
a) We therefore recommend that a new Community School District structure in New York City be established that aligns exactly with the existing Community Board District Lines.
b) That the current members of the Community Education Councils (CEC’s) be designated and become Community Board members on their Community Boards with the appropriate jurisdictions. Furthermore, that they be specifically designated to serve on the Education Committees of those respective Community Boards.
c) That a Community Board District Superintendent be designated for each Community School District as their primary responsibility, and of course have a Real Office in that district that is accessible to the Community, with a real staff that actually functions. It is expected that the Superintendent would meet monthly with the Education Committee of that Community Board and form a mutually respectful relationship with that Community Board. Of course we also expect that the District Superintendent would also meet with the District Leadership Team on a monthly basis.
3) We call for replacement of the failed “Parent Coordinator” job category. In their place, we would establish a new job category, for which all existing Parent Coordinators would have a preference in applying and qualifying for.
4) The title for this new job category would be that of “Parent Ombudsman.” The functions of these Parent Ombudsmen would be to help solve the problems of parents who would call or come to the School in respond to issues that arise in their Child’s path through the Educational System.
We expect that not only will the Board of Education work to facilitate the competence and credibility of the Parent Ombudsman so that they can do their jobs better on behalf of the parents and their children, but they will also be allowed to choose their Union Representation in a transparent process.
5) In regards to School Leadership Teams (SLTs), we call for:
a) A staggered two year term in the election of team members so as to preserve the continuity of team function and knowledge.
b) The restoration of discretionary professional development training funds to the Teams so that they feel empowered and respected by the Educational System in which they can play such a potentially positive role.
c) Restoration of a competitive professional development Vendor Training Catalog.
d) Giving responsibility to the School Leadership Teams for the maintenance of the content of their respective school web-sites. This would be in harmony with a critical element of their mission under State Law to communicate effectively with their respective constituents.
e) On an annual basis the SLT members will elect a member from their team to represent them on the District Leadership Team. This would promote the flow of information about problems and issues up from the School Based Level.
6) We recommend that the respective five Borough Presidents establish Education Advisory Councils, analogous to the council that has been functioning in Queens under the purview of that esteemed Borough President.
a) Obviously we recommend that the core membership of the Boroughs Advisory Councils have among their members the chairs of the various district leadership teams and community board educational committees within their respective Boroughs.
b) In the event these Education Advisory Councils elect or designate a chairperson, the Borough President could seriously consider designating that person as their representative to the Citywide Education Policy Council.
7) In regards to the newly established “Citywide Educational Policy Council”, we would build on the UFT proposal and add four members; two more appointees for the Mayor and one each to represent the Community Boards and also the District Leadership Teams; they would be respectively elected by a separate Citywide gatherings of the Chairs of the District Leadership Teams, and also the chairs of the Education Committees of every Community Board in NYC. Further, it is critical that any member in good standing of the Citywide Education Policy Council be empowered to make a motion to place items on the Agenda for the following month’s meeting.

Envisioning a Community & Parent Friendly Naturally Aligned Structure for School Governance in NYC
What should be the Purpose of a System of School Governance?
Answer: Better Decisions and Responsiveness on Behalf of the Children
Axiom #1
The School is the Fundamental Unit of a School Governance System
Axiom #2
The Management Structure and the Participatory Structure Must be Aligned
Axiom #3
Continuity has a Value – It Enables us to Build on a Foundation over Time
Axiom #4
A Desire for Consensus Should not be allowed to Degenerate into Paralysis
Axiom #5
Team Participation in Decision Making Promotes Buy-In of Implementation
Axiom #6
The System will never be Perfect – Nonetheless it should Strive to Emulate a Learning Organization so it can Grow from both Acknowledgement of Mistakes and also Anticipation of Possible Problems