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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Parents Fight the NYC BOE for The CECs, and a Voice in School Governance

Joel Klein's version of total control over New York City public schools is unravelling.

Of course many of my friends know that I continually insist that he is not "chancellor" because Education Law 2590-h says that the Chancellor of New York City Public Schools must have a contract. Joel Klein has no contract with terms of agreement on his position as 'chancellor'. Mr. Klein's performance is not evaluated by anyone.

New York Education Law
Education Law 2590-h

* § 2590-h. Powers and duties of chancellor. The office of chancellor
of the city district is hereby continued. Such chancellor shall serve at the pleasure of and be employed by the mayor of the city of New York by contract. The length of such contract shall not exceed by more than two years the term of office of the mayor authorizing such contract. The chancellor shall receive a salary to be fixed by the mayor within the budgetary allocation therefor. He or she shall exercise all his or her powers and duties in a manner not inconsistent with the city-wide educational policies of the city board. The chancellor shall have the following powers and duties as the superintendent of schools and chief executive officer for the city district, which the chancellor shall exercise to promote an equal educational opportunity for all students in the schools of the city district, promote fiscal and educational equity, increase student achievement and school performance and encourage local school-based innovation, including the power and duty to...

In 2005 when I found out that he didnt have a contract, I asked, "why not?"

It seems that he is the Attorney for the NYC BOE, and therefore he cannot be deposed, decisions and emails he sends out are privileged, and he takes on clients randomly and exerts the attorney client privilege. How convenient. That's why he and Mike Best, NYC BOE General Counsel, sit on the sham "school board", the Panel For Educational Policy, and they control the information given out. There are no minutes for the meetings, and no agendas posted on the NYC BOE website. This is a violation of Open Meetings Law.

In my opinion, the only person who has gotten it almost right about mayoral control is CSA President Ernest Logan (pictured below). He mentioned at a panel discussion that there should be a vote for school board members...then he changed his mind.

Mr. Logan has stated that we must return transparency and accountability to our public school system. I agree. However, I disagree with him when he says that we should continue to appoint members of the PEP. We need to have representation for everyone by voting in members of the school board/Panel For Educational Policy or whatever you want to call it. Michael Cardozo spelled the strategy out in his policy paper which I posted on my website and on this blog, and I disagree with his assessment that as so few people voted for school board members in New York City that there was justification to suspend the right to vote until July 1, 2009 (when the current form of mayoral control ends, unless there is an extension).

Total power must be accompanied by total control. So, Mayor Bloomberg and Joel Klein took away the voices of anyone who would, could, can, or did, speak out against their monopoly. Parent Councils are furious:

March 4, 2009

Via Regular Mail and E-Mail

Mr. Christopher Coates
Chief, Voting Section
Civil Rights Division
Room 7254 – NWB
Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Washington, DC 20530

Re: Changes to the Process for Nomination and Selection of Members of the Community
District Education Councils in New York City

Dear Mr. Coates:

We write to you as members of, and on behalf of, Community District Education Council 26 (“CDEC26”), a public body established under New York State law as part of the New York City Department of Education (“NYC DOE”) and statutorily tasked with governing the 26th Community District which is located in Northeast Queens, New York. We write with regard to certain changes to the process for the nomination and selection of members of the Community District Education Councils in New York City which have recently been set forth by the Chancellor of the NYC DOE. These changes were made via an amendment to the Chancellor’s Regulation D-140, titled “Community Education Councils,” which was issued on, and became effective on, February 19, 2009 (A copy of the amended Regulation No. D-140 is attached to this letter).

Our greatest concern is with the changes that now mandate that the use of a website called In accordance with the Chancellor’s changes, parents who wish to serve on a CDEC must now nominate themselves on this website and the selectors (those persons who actually vote for the candidates running for CDEC positions) of the CDEC members must now vote via this website. To fully explain why we feel this change in the manner of voting for CDEC members may negatively impact minority voters, we must first note that the CDEC’s are the legal successors to the old Community School Boards (“CSB’s”) in New York City. The CSB’s were in existence for several years and their members were voted for by registered voters and parents of NYC school children in elections that were run by the NYC Board of elections. These elections took place in the same polling places that were used by NYC voters for all other Federal, State and municipal elections. In 2004, New York State law eliminated the old CSB’s and replaced them with CDEC’s. Unlike the CSB’s, the members of the CDEC’s were to be selected by selectors (three PA/PTA officers from each school in the district). These selectors would vote, in person, at a meeting of the selectors to select CDEC members. It appears that NYC submitted those changes to the Justice Department and requested pre-clearance under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (“Section 5”) on October 31, 2003 and apparently received approval for these changes from the Department of Justice.

We do not know whether NYC or the NYC DOE has submitted the Chancellor’s current changes to the Department of Justice for pre-clearance under Section 5. However, as these changes affect the entire City of New York, including Kings County, New York County and Bronx County (three counties in New York State to which Section 5 applies) and as these changes are clearly “changes in the manner of voting” and “changes in candidacy requirements and qualifications,” we believe that NYC or the NYC DOE should have submitted these changes to the Justice Department for pre-clearance under Section 5. If the changes were submitted, then we write to argue against pre-clearance, as is our right under the Voting Rights Act. If the changes have not been submitted to the Justice Department for pre-clearance under Section 5, then we write to ask the Justice Department to investigate this matter to determine whether NYC or the NYC DOE have failed to comply with their responsibilities under Section 5. Either way, we believe that the current changes, namely mandatory internet voting, has the potential to “make minority voters worse off than before” the changes. Although the “Digital Divide” appears to be closing, there still appears to be significant difference, among different racial groups, when it comes to internet access. We identified a New York Times article from 2006, titled “Digital Divide Closing as Blacks Turn to the Internet,” by Michel Marriott which indicated that the gap, although narrowing, was still significant. This article indicated that “according to a Pew national survey of people 18 and older, completed in February, 74 percent of whites go online [and only] 61 percent of African-Americans” went online.

We would further like to note that the NYC Corporation Counsel, Michael A. Cardozo, in a letter to the Department of Justice dated October 31, 2003, seeking pre-clearance for the change from CSBs to CDEC’s made a point to argue that the changes responded to “public demand,” “were supported by a powerful majority of both houses” of the NY State legislature, and were developed “on the basis of the recommendations of a multi-racial tasks force, base din turn on public hearings.” We can assure that none of these conditions exist with regard to the current changes. The Chancellor made this change on his own with out public hearing and without the involvement of the state legislature, the NYC Council, the CDEC’s or any other parent groups within NYC. The Chancellor has asserted that the changes are “based on feedback from parent leaders.” When we pressed the NYC DOE for copies of this feedback, we received e-mails from parents to the DOE from 2007 which were essentially complaints about how poorly the 2007 CDEC selection process was run. There were no public hearings on this subject and, to the best of our knowledge, the NYC DOE has not solicited input from any CDEC, PTA or any other parent groups regarding the changes, including mandatory internet voting.

In light of the foregoing, we ask that you investigate this matter, whether or not NYC has submitted the changes for pre-clearance under Section 5, and ensure that minority voting rights are not negatively impacted by the NYC DOE Chancellor’s changes to the process for the nomination and selection of members of the Community District Education Councils in New York City.

Very truly yours,
________________ ____________________
Robert Caloras Erik M. De Paula Vincent Tabone
President Chair-Law Committee

Members of CDC 26



Whereas, the City School District of the City of New York and the Board of Education
of the City School District of the City of New York, both a/k/a the New York City
Department of Education (hereinafter “DOE”), are creatures of the State of New York
established and controlled by New York State Education Law (“Education Law”), Part
52-A, §§ 2590 et seq.; and
Whereas, Community District Education Councils (“CDECs”) were established by
Education Law § 2590-c, which states that “Each community district shall be governed
by a community district education council” with such powers and duties established by
Education Law § 2590-e and other relevant provisions of law; and
Whereas, the City-wide Council on Special Education (“CCSE”) was established by
Education Law § 2590-b; and
Whereas, the Citywide Council on High Schools (“CCHS”) was established by
Chancellor’s Regulation D-160; and
Whereas, the aforementioned CDECs, CCSE, and CCHS (collectively, “CECs”)
together constitute an important elected parent voice regarding DOE policies as well as
possessing specific powers and duties under multiple provisions of law; and
Whereas, the Mayor of the City of New York, the Chancellor of the DOE, and their
subordinate agencies and offices have regularly and illegally disregarded and
manipulated the mandated role of CDECs to be notified, consulted, and included in
DOE decision-making,
Whereas, more specifically, the DOE is in breach of the mandate that CDEC's
be consulted before new schools are sited, opened, and closed in our districts,
as stated in New York State Education Law § 2590-h.
Whereas, the DOE is in breach of the mandate that CDEC's must approve any
rezonings occur in the district, as stated in New York State Education Law §
2590-e, including eliminating a zoned school from a neighborhood altogether;
Whereas, the "straw vote" recently imposed by the Chancellor into the legal process
for electing Members to the CDECs is lacking in transparency, impossible to validate,
undemocratic, and an expensive waste of time;
Whereas, the banning of School leadership Team members from being eligible
to serve on their CDECs is undemocratic, unacceptable, and would greatly
diminish parental involvement at the school and district level;
Whereas ,CDECs recognize that the DOE is in non-compliance with its responsibility to
serve the needs of special Education students, as mandated by state and Federal law,
and extremely negligent in its duties to this large and vulnerable population;
RESOLVED, that CDEC 26 denounces the Mayor’s and Chancellor’s disregard for our
legally constituted authority on behalf of New York City’s over one million public school students, and
That DOE must consult with CDEC's before new schools are sited, opened, and closed
in our districts, as stated in Education Law § 2590-h; and .
That the DOE immediately cease its unilateral actions to eliminate zoned
schools from neighborhoods, unless and until the district CDEC approves of
these decisions;
That as previously, all School leadership Team members be recognized as
eligible to serve as CDEC members;
That the DOE appoint a visible supervisor with the authority and responsibility to
maintain services for special education students and their families, to direct
these families to the proper advocates, to communicate with principals, and to
ensure that all facilities have the appropriate classrooms and support for these
That the DOE restores district superintendents to their proper and legally
mandated role, and ensures that they spend the majority of their time within the
district, offering support and supervision to the district’s schools and help to
parents when their children are being denied adequate education and/or

Community District Education Council 26
New York City Department of Education
Address: 61-15 Oceania Street, Bayside, NY 11364 Phone: (718) 631-6927 Fax: (718) 631-1347 E-mail:
Robert Caloras Jeannette Segal Irene Fennell Marie Pollicino Erik DePaula
President of the Council First Vice President Second Vice President Recording Secretary Treasurer
Council Members: J Anita Saunders h Chin
Irene Cheung-Borough Appointee Community Superintendent
Dave Kerpen District 26
Patrick McShane
Dina Quondamatteo
Vincent Tabone
February 12, 2009

Dear Assemblyman Lancman:
It is very important that parents, staff and the community receive notice and instructions in the event
of an emergency in our public schools. Notification systems can help ensure the safety of our students
and school personnel and inform parents and other members of the community about emergency situations at schools and allow them to prepare accordingly. Almost every SUNY and CUNY campus has or is implementing an emergency alert notification system. New York State's NY-Alert program has over one million enrollees and New York City is already conducting a pilot community alert system.
Implementing a program like this in New York City public schools would be fairly easy insofar as New York City has the potential to plug into the existing NY-Alert system run by the New York State Emergency Management office.

Robert Caloras

President, CDEC

The New York Times reports:

March 6, 2009
Controlling Interests
Taking Sides on New York’s School Chancellor


Whether Albany extends the landmark law that handed New York City’s mayor control of its public schools may depend less on theoretical questions — or even on the Bloomberg administration’s education record — than on how Chancellor Joel I. Klein has wielded the unprecedented power.

In some circles, Mr. Klein is revered: as a star prosecutor turned crusader for the underclass, a fearless innovator willing to take on the powerful teachers’ union. Australia’s education minister flew him in for six days in November, and Arne Duncan swept into Brooklyn on one of his first school visits as education secretary, calling him “someone I’ve learned a tremendous amount from.”

But among some of the state lawmakers who will determine the fate of the nation’s largest school system, Mr. Klein is reviled: as an arrogant outsider obsessed with accountability, a tone-deaf suit unwilling to consider parents’ views in what one politician called “a silencing of the lambs.” A recent Assembly Education Committee hearing was punctuated by pointed refrains about his priorities and management style.

After distancing himself from city and state lawmakers for more than six years, Mr. Klein, 62, has lately embarked on something of a charm offensive, phoning the committee members who grilled him to suggest meeting one on one. But soon after those phone calls, when parents got scant notice of a public hearing over a plan to replace a traditional Harlem public school with a charter school, Assemblyman Daniel J. O’Donnell fired off a letter to the chancellor calling such efforts “bogus.”

“I’ve had more interaction with the fire commissioner and with the parks commissioner than I do with the chancellor of education — and the parks commissioner doesn’t need me to vote on anything,” Mr. O’Donnell, a Democrat from Morningside Heights, said in an interview. “He can put on a good show, he can be jovial, he can make a joke on a cellphone message. And the minute he hangs up the other side comes out. He goes back to his Machiavellian way of making decisions totally absent of community involvement.”

Sweeping Changes

The mayoral control law, enacted in 2002 as part of a national push to streamline authority over urban schools, expires in June. Education policymakers across the country are watching the debate over its renewal, which is considered likely, albeit with adjustments designed to rein in the chancellor and his patron, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

Their takeover has brought sweeping change to a system long viewed as failing its neediest students, and Mr. Klein, a former Justice Department official, deserves credit for channeling enormous resources to lift achievement where it had lagged most.

He dismantled the community district offices he derided as bastions of patronage. He overhauled admissions to gifted classes, high schools and prekindergarten while creating more than 300 new small schools and charter schools for parents to choose from. He recruited and trained a new corps of young principals, largely freeing them from daily supervision but branding their schools A through F in annual report cards. And he transformed New York into a national model for data-driven experiments, including cash incentives for academic progress.

But while state test scores and graduation rates have climbed during his tenure, national tests show eighth graders making no significant progress. Fewer than a third of black and Hispanic high school students earned the more respected Regents diplomas in 2007.

In some cases, Mr. Klein’s commitment to the principle of equality has managed to anger key stakeholders without getting the desired result. Gifted admission is now standardized across the city, for example, but fewer minority children and students from poor districts are in the programs.

“In his passion to focus on correcting the inequities in the system, he has antagonized people who feel they are making a positive contribution,” said Kathryn S. Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City, a business group that supports mayoral control. “When somebody becomes a zealot, it has its pluses and minuses. I think it causes him to be impatient and combative, in ways that clearly have been hard for others in the system.”

Mayor Bloomberg has indicated nothing but support for Mr. Klein, declaring at a recent school event, “Maybe the best thing I ever did was pick the best chancellor any school system has ever had.”

Yet it is nearly impossible to have a conversation about mayoral control without hearing speculation that Randi Weingarten, president of the United Federation of Teachers, is pressing for the chancellor’s departure as a condition of renewing it.

Ms. Weingarten, whose clout in Albany makes her opinion among the more influential, said presenting such an ultimatum is “just not my style.” But she said she deemed the chancellor “untrustworthy” early in his tenure, when he gave a speech railing against the union contract while she was out of town.

“It’s not a matter of people liking or disliking him; it’s a matter of does he listen, does he respect, does he respond in a way, is there a give and take,” she said. “He’s a great litigator, he’s probably the smartest person I’ve met. But his view is it’s my way or the highway.”

Defending a Record

The chancellor himself, in an hourlong interview, said he hoped to stay on and, regardless, would continue his crusade through the Education Equality Project, an initiative he started last year with the Rev. Al Sharpton that seeks to build support nationwide for policy changes often at odds with unions. He acknowledged having underestimated the resistance he would face in changing longstanding practices but expressed confidence that he has the quiet support of many parents who are not part of organized groups.

“I’m comfortable with the record we’ve established, with the results we’ve gotten and the progress we have made,” he said, adding in a second conversation that “there is no daylight” between him and the mayor on education policies.

“It’s always easier to personalize, demonize — and that happens, but I don’t think it’s about me,” Mr. Klein continued. “Don’t underestimate the fact that these are often policy issues — that when it comes to people’s own children, they may sometimes want things that aren’t necessarily equitable.”

It is no oversight that Mr. Klein has neglected to engage state lawmakers and organized advocates; to him, a critical aspect of mayoral control was to stop the pandering to the privileged and powerful. In some ways, his late-hour public-relations push with Albany mirrors Mr. Bloomberg’s recent quest to court party leaders in pursuit of a ballot line: both have frayed relations through years of disdaining routine politicking as beneath them.

The chancellor frames his $250,000-a-year job as a civil rights mission and is quick to divide the world into those who get it — “it” being his approach to what is needed to fix urban schools — and those who, as he often says, “just don’t get it.”

But detractors say Mr. Klein is missing a fundamental truth: that a key element of New York’s past school success has been keeping middle-class families satisfied with the schools in their midst. He is roundly criticized for seeming to value law degrees over teaching experience when selecting his top deputies.

Mr. Klein speaks passionately at black churches and charter-school events, but often appears bored at public meetings of the Panel for Educational Policy, passing time on his BlackBerry. (A rapid e-mail responder, Mr. Klein is also a recovering BrickBreaker addict who says he once scored “probably close to 5 million, which probably put me at number four or five in the world.”)

Patrick J. Sullivan, the Manhattan borough president’s appointee to the panel, described the chancellor in an interview as “very sincere” but said he too often presumes that parents are “trying to game the system.”

“The chancellor doesn’t have children in the schools, the mayor doesn’t have children in the schools, and the mayor’s supporters don’t have their children in the schools,” he said (Mr. Klein’s grown daughter attended private schools). “So you’re going to face criticism when you’re out of touch with the reality of those of us who do have children in the schools.”

Assemblyman Mark S. Weprin — father of two children in public school — recalled parents, early on, being impressed as Mr. Klein described growing up in a Queens housing project. But, he said: “Once the game started and once parents were engaged in their kids’ education, they weren’t ready for any glibness. They no longer cared that the chancellor went to public school.”

Friends and fans, however, count Mr. Klein’s steadfastness and willingness to maintain unpopular positions among his key assets.

Eva S. Moskowitz, a former city councilwoman who now champions one of Mr. Klein’s favorite causes by running four Harlem charter schools said the chancellor has “gotten a bad rap” from parents because “he’s not the Bill Clinton, feeling your pain.”

“The guy thinks about this at 1 in the morning, and I know because I think about it and I e-mail him and he’s up,” she said. “Most of us would be delighted to hire someone who is that obsessed with student outcomes.”

Devoted to Details

The actor Alan Alda, with whom Mr. Klein sometimes scours the city for undiscovered pizza parlors, described him as “so deeply committed to what he is doing that I think if he doesn’t get to do this, I don’t know what he’d do next.”

“Food is fundamental, learning is fundamental and poverty is fundamental,” said Mr. Alda, who befriended Mr. Klein at a dinner party several years ago. “He is really devoted to things that matter, but when he’s devoted to anything, even something as trivial as pizza, he dives into it.”

Charlie King, the acting national director of Mr. Sharpton’s National Action Network, says the chancellor is doubly misunderstood.

“There’s the version on the cocktail circuit of this crusading guy swooping down from above, and he’s going to save these poor public school children and keep fighting that fight, Sir Knight Joel Klein,” he said. “And on the other side you have people thinking he’s this cold, heartless, coming from the right side of the tracks sort of arrogant guy who could care less. And I think neither of those stereotypes are correct.”

The unlikely partnership with Mr. Sharpton, who early on criticized Mr. Bloomberg’s selection of Mr. Klein and has protested some of his policies, has helped the chancellor raise his national profile.

His name was frequently floated as a possible secretary of education in the Obama administration. Tom Boasberg, the new Denver superintendent, sought his counsel over a recent breakfast at the Regency Hotel. He received a standing ovation last month at a Yale School of Management conference, where one student declared from the dais, “We’re all a little star-struck right now.”

And if Mr. Klein has until recently kept his distance from Albany, he checks in several times a week with Michelle Rhee, the new chief of the Washington, D.C., schools. Ms. Rhee said Mr. Klein is “very supportive but doesn’t try to act like he knows everything.”

“He was saying sometimes you’ve got to lead from the front because if you’re too worried about trying to make everybody happy or get every last detail, then you’ll get bogged down and nothing will actually move,” she said. “He said sometimes a leader can see things that other people can’t see, and has to push things that they know are the right things to push, and it takes other folks a little longer to get there.”
Javier C. Hernandez and Jennifer Medina contributed reporting.