Thursday, July 23, 2009

School Governance in New York City III by Jacob Morris

School Governance in New York City III
The Naked Dictator by Jacob MorrisOr the Negative Evolution of a Benevolent Dictator
There is a New Sociological “Law of Power” It states that regardless of the initial Benevolent Intent of the Controlling Authority – as time passes Maintenance of Unfettered Control outweighs the original Benevolent Intent – In other words having to Listen irritates them – “Don’t Bother Me”
"Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it” - William Pitt
We’ve just had to endure repeated over the top hysterical warnings about the coming of the apocalypse and rioting in the Streets if Mayoral Control did not get renewed. In the calm of the morning after the expiration of the Law, we get a chance to rationally assess - Where Are We Now?
In my humble opinion, William Pitt and Lord Acton knew what they were talking about in regards to the negative effects Power has on the Minds of those who imagine they have it. In the wake of the passing of their hysterical language – which I feel it very significant that we remember they used – their credibility and believability has been impeached. There is an attitude on the part of the administration of, “How dare you oppose me”. Word has been received of Robo-Calls to constituents of various Senators who have supported a School Governance structure that facilitates Parent & Community input.
This garbage must be exposed and confronted!! So now we have a Board of Education – WOW – and they have a meeting where the Public and Parents are not allowed to speak. At least with the old Board of Education – there was a respected mechanism for Public Input and to get on the Agenda. I personally remember speaking before the old Board in 1998-9 about Asthma & Absenteeism along with the problem of Disproportionate Placement of Black & Hispanic Boys in Special Education, and having them listen.
Borough President Rueben Diaz Jr. made a very salient observation the other day in regards to the newly reconstituted Board of Education. The phrase he used was related to the individual brainpower of the Board Members – and the Structural Waste of their “Intellectual Capital”. This is why I used the “Naked Dictator” title above.
The Math & Science Achievement Gap, the statistical “Black Hole” of the “Pushout Problem”, the increasing number of our Children in Special Education, and the continuing problem of Asthma & Absenteeism, are only a few of the major issues that our Public Education System must work on solving.
So it’s back to – “Where are we Now”? If the State Senate was to approve the Legislation approved by the Assembly – and then pass their Amendments separately – the Mayor would never dignify their action with the respect of a Negotiation. It must be newly crafted Legislation. So the basic questions remain –
What do we Want? – And also, What do we as a Society Need?
I nominate “Transparency” as something we should value highly. If we attain that then it would be a short step to “Accountability”. So that whatever governance structure we finally arrive at can be viewed as Healthy and Functioning with the Objective of Better Quality Decision Making on behalf of our Children.
How do we attain “Transparency”?
The simple answer to that is “Alignment & Professional Development Training”.
The Management Structure must meet with the Participatory Structure’s Entities monthly. Also the Agenda can not be controlled only by Management. There must be a mechanism for ALL participatory members to place items on the Agenda for consideration. However, if the members don’t feel knowledgeable – we’ll find their ability to participate in a meaningful manner problematic.
Now imagine if you will – that you are a Parent in NYC – and you have your child in a Public School. You participate in the PTA, people come to like you, and feel that you have the ability to contribute input of value to the School, and the opportunity arises for you to get elected to the School’s Leadership Team. If you knew that you could be fired “At Will” by the Principal, would you bother to participate? Could you go to a meeting of the Team knowing that arbitrarily and capriciously, one word or look could get you humiliated by the person with the POWER / AUTHORITY?
So the question remains – Why bother to have a Panel, Council, or Board at all, if the intelligent people appointed or selected are going to do their imitation as Potted Plants? In a recent interview former Chancellor Harold Levy made an interesting point, the Mayor must FEEL in Control. The reason why is because only then will that Mayor deliver resources (i.e. MONEY) to the School System. There is no question that Mayor Bloomberg has dramatically raised the amount of money in the System’s Budget, since he took over.

From his perspective he probably feels like he’s doing a good job.
In a business you throw money at a problem – pick your own, hopefully competent people – and tell them to fix it. Unfortunately – an Educational System and the nature of Human Learning are not quite so suitable for an Executive top down approach to solving problems. In a Public School System you need to get “Buy In”, from the people you have to work with. This way they become invested in being part of the solution.
Recent Examples of Major Negative Credibility Issues
1). Education Panel, Forgotten, Rushes to Approve Budget June 20, 2009
If there was ever any question over the lack of influence wielded by the Panel for Educational Policy — a group of 13 responsible for overseeing city education matters but often ridiculed as a rubber stamp — Friday morning appeared to clear things up.
The Department of Education, it seems, forgot to get the blessing of the panel, as required by State Law, before it submitted its $22.3 billion budget to the City Council.
After Patrick J. Sullivan, a Manhattan parent on the panel, pointed out the relevant statute, the city scrambled to call an emergency meeting of the panel for Friday, just hours before the expected Council vote. The public was given 54 minutes of notice.
(--- But Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg — who controls 8 of the panel’s 13 seats — made plain during the negotiations that he preferred no panel at all, and over the past seven years, he and Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein, who as the panel’s chairman, have eased it into irrelevance. The volunteer panelists — rarely engage in discussions with those who rise to address them. They do not debate the educational issues of the day, but spend most sessions applauding packaged presentations by staff. Some have barely uttered a public word during their tenures. )
When you leave a child back multiple times – they leave School – then they go to Jail….
So why are they getting Left Back over and over? The answer is simple – it’s the failure of Administrators to deliver effective Remediation to these young people – a broken promise….

If you know History you know the answer – to even infer that Members of the State Senate who are advocating for a System of NYC School Governance – in good faith – seem like Hitler is an insult to the meaning of History – again demonstrating that having to listen irritates him - now he wants to pretend he did not hear the question
Literally- NYCDOE has repeatedly broken State Education Law - basically destroying the Community School Districts – and their Superintendents – as well as ignoring the Decision by Commissioner Mills that their revision of the regulations governing School Leadership Teams was illegal – daring anyone to bring a lawsuit – and then quietly ignoring Court Orders…- This is a Problematic (ie. Bad) Track Record -
The reason is why is simple - if the Mayor feels he has Control then the School System is given more money
What we want is for the Bloomberg/Klein Administration to LISTEN!!!
Also 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) Two year terms in the terms of 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 members; a least 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, and hopefully allow for Public Input at the end of the meetings.
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