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Thursday, February 2, 2012

NYU Professor Pedro Noguera Resigns From The State University of New York Board of Trustees

SUNY Official Resigns Over Charter Issue

Pedro Noguera

Professor Says School Policy Is Unclear


A prominent academic has resigned from the State University of New York Board of Trustees amid what he called the increasing political tension over the shifting role of charter schools across the state.

New York University professor Pedro Noguera, who held a powerful position on the 17-member board that approves charter schools, said Wednesday he believed the schools had evolved beyond their original mission: offering an alternative to failing public schools in impoverished neighborhoods.

Instead, he said, many have become unnecessary rivals to established suburban and improving urban schools.
Mr. Noguera said he met with SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher and Board of Trustees ChairmanH. Carl McCall in December to express his concerns but didn't receive a clear answer. He had been appointed to the board by former Gov. David Paterson in 2008 and was chairman of the committee that made recommendations to the larger board over whether to approve individual charter schools.

"It's not clear to me what's the larger strategy here, other than the political one," he said. "What I see happening is a deliberate attempt to create competition between public and charter schools, but it's an uneven playing field."

In a statement, Mr. McCall praised Mr. Noguera but declined to address his specific complaints. Ms. Zimpher didn't respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Noguera, known for his work on the education of young black men, was viewed as a moderate on most education issues, tending to disappoint more fervent advocates on both sides.

Bill Phillips, president of the New York Charter Schools Association, said he disagreed with Mr. Noguera's views and said SUNY was nationally recognized for approving good charter schools. "What I would hope is that a lot of people would just appreciate that he's intellectually honest," Mr. Phillips said.

Mr. Noguera said he came to believe SUNY didn't have a clear philosophy behind deciding which charters to approve and that even well-performing charters, when placed in inappropriate neighborhoods, drew resources away from other public schools.

His resignation came against the backdrop of larger questions over the role of charter schools in public education. Once seen as experimental alternatives to crumbling inner-city schools controlled by teachers unions and bureaucracy, charter schools have begun to flourish in wealthy suburbs and upscale urban neighborhoods.
Amid an recent uproar over proposed charter schools in New Jersey suburbs, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has said he believed their schools' focus should be on "districts that are judged to be failing."

Charter operators seeking space in middle-class neighborhoods are "rubbing raw these tensions between folks who could support charters as decentralized community-based institutions but now are fearful that the charter movement is being taken over by larger management organizations without deep roots in the community," said Jeffrey Henig, a professor of political science and education at Teachers College Columbia University.

The SUNY board oversees 83 operating charter schools out of 184 in the state. The state Board of Regents, which operates 30, is the only other body allowed to approve charter schools. The city had that power until 2010.
Mr. Noguera resigned after a particularly heated community meeting over a proposed charter school in Brooklyn's gentrified Cobble Hill neighborhood. The school, part of former City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz's Success Academy Charter network, is set to move into a building that houses three other schools. The plan has drawn criticism from some parents, teachers and elected officials.

"It's just the latest reminder of how needlessly polarized and conflictual this whole thing has become," he said. "This is just going to continue, and I see no end to it." Mr. Noguera said Success Cobble Hill would be strong academically and financially, but he was disturbed by the level of opposition in the community.
In a statement, Ms. Moskowitz called Mr. Noguera a "great partner and advocate of high quality charter schools and we're sad to see him go."

"His departure, however, doesn't change the fact that there are families lined up in every neighborhood across this city for better public schools and we'll continue to work as hard as we can to meet that demand and give every child the well-rounded education they need and deserve," the statement read.
Write to Lisa Fleisher at

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