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Saturday, May 8, 2010

Joel Klein's Letter To Principals On The Budget, and The New izone

From: Klein Joel I.
Sent: Thursday, May 06, 2010 3:08 PM
To: &All Principals
Subject: Budget Update

Dear Colleagues,

Earlier today, Mayor Bloomberg released the City’s proposed budget for the coming fiscal year. While the Mayor has done his best to insulate schools during these tough economic times, our Department still faces a cut in State funding as large as $500 million. As a result, we will need to absorb substantial budget cuts for the 2010-2011 school year.


Lawmakers in Albany have yet to pass a budget, even though their own deadline was April 1. For that reason, our fiscal picture remains uncertain. I do not yet have all the answers about how our budget will ultimately be resolved, but I do know that the coming school year will be extremely challenging for us all. We continue to have cost increases that are beyond our control for mandated special education services, contractual pay differentials for educators, facilities operations, and transportation services. As in past years, these rising costs come in addition to funding cuts from the State, and therefore make deeper school-level budget reductions unavoidable.

As you know, over the last two years, we have already endured several rounds of budget cuts. Each time, we’ve made every effort to protect schools and students. We have cut the central administrative budget by more than $116 million, or 18 percent—that’s double the percentage of cuts taken by schools. This includes headcount reductions of 550 positions in central and field offices. For the coming school year, we will cut an additional $38 million from our administrative budgets and eliminate another 5 percent of our current positions. The central budget, however, represents only three percent of the Department’s total spending. Facing a loss of $500 million from the State, we have no choice but to find significant savings in our schools and classrooms.


We plan to send you your preliminary 2010-2011 school year budgets by June 1. Based on what we know now, which may change depending on what happens in Albany, you will likely see a budget reduction significantly greater than the 4.9 percent cut you absorbed for the current school year.

I know that a cut of this magnitude will undoubtedly be painful, but I am confident that you will make the least-harmful choices—albeit ones I wish you didn’t have to make—for your students. Even before budgets are finalized, I want you to begin planning for the coming school year. You will need to evaluate your overall expenditures, including personnel, professional development, and after-school programs, to set spending priorities that will best support your students’ academic needs. In some cases, this may mean excessing teachers to retain after-school programs or cutting school aides to save teaching positions.


Unfortunately, given these budgetary realities, we must assume that it will be necessary to layoff thousands of teachers. We currently anticipate that we’ll need to let go of 4,400 school-based personnel in addition to losing even more positions through attrition. No one, not you nor I, wants to lay off teachers. And, while we would prefer to do layoffs in a way that minimizes the negative consequences for our schools and students, current State law ties our hands from doing so.

As you know, teachers have to be laid off in reverse order of seniority. According to our analysis, this seniority requirement would force us to have to lay off most of the elementary school teachers hired since the fall of 2007.

This “last in, first out” requirement fails to consider school needs as well as differences in teacher effectiveness and their real impact on the lives of our students. We all know that experience can translate into real results in the classroom—but it is not the only criterion that should be considered.

Instead, these tough decisions should be based on existing ratings from evaluations. The 1,800 teachers who received U-ratings last year should be among the first to be laid off. I also believe that teachers in the ATR pool should be let go before teachers who are currently in the classroom. Additionally, when making layoff decisions, we should consider principal observations, absentee rates, impact on student learning, and contribution to school community. If we are indeed in the unfortunate position of having to let go of teachers, I am confident that we could work together to carry out the layoffs in a manner that would be better for our schools, rather than relying on seniority alone.

I will continue to advocate for a more rational lay off system that would allow you to protect your best teachers and the best interests of our students. I remain hopeful that the State and union will come to the table with us to work out a better layoff system. As in almost every other professional organization across the country, we should base layoffs on a rigorous evaluation of performance and system needs. Our priority should be to protect our most effective teachers from layoffs.

In the meantime, our Human Resources team will be working through the layoff process. We will notify you about how layoffs will affect your individual school soon after you get your school budget.

Lastly, I want to reiterate that hiring restrictions remain in place. We could, however, be in a position this coming school year where we need to hire teachers in certain license areas, such as special education, at the same time we are laying off teachers in other areas. If you anticipate a vacancy, you can network with and screen candidates, but you should not make any offers or commitments to external candidates at this time.


We all have many questions and concerns. I invite you to participate in an interactive Web cast about our budget situation at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, May 12. At that time, we will discuss how we can work together to manage challenging budget times. Please click on the following link to get the call-in information and to RSVP:

The coming fiscal year is shaping up to be one of the most difficult our school system has ever had to endure. Our schoolchildren aren’t to blame for the financial mess we’re facing—and it’s unacceptable for them to bear the brunt of the State’s budget shortfall. As budget negotiations continue in Albany, you can be confident that I will keep fighting for more money for our schools.

I look forward to talking with you next week. And, as always, thank you for your hard work.


Joel I. Klein

But, Mr. Klein then hires new Deputy Chancellors and sets up the new izone:

Chancellor Klein Launches NYC Innovation Zone

Schools Expand on Traditional Learning Models, Further Personalize Instruction and Give Teachers New Tools

iZone Will Grow from 10 to 81 Schools, Creating New Models for Districts Nationwide

Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein today announced the launch of the New York City Innovation Zone (iZone), a group of schools with innovative, cutting-edge approaches to personalizing instruction for every child. In all, 81 public schools will pilot new classroom models and instructional technologies that will accelerate learning and transform how content is taught. The iZone schools will challenge longstanding assumptions about education, departing from a traditional classroom model by providing teachers with new tools to individualize learning for every child.

Schools in the iZone will adopt new approaches to instruction, using online courses, adaptive technologies, and real-time data to help teachers create more targeted lessons. They will make better use of time, allowing for more flexible approaches to scheduling that extend learning throughout the school day and year. And a smaller number of schools will modify teacher roles, increasing the flexibility of staffing.

“Our iZone schools will innovate a model for educating children that has remained largely unchanged for more than a hundred years,” Chancellor Klein said. “We are giving teachers new tools that allow them to customize education more thoughtfully for every child, continuing a tradition of innovation in New York City public schools.”

“To be effective, our public schools need to update old practices and tools” Deputy Chancellor for Strategy and Innovation John White said. “With innovations involving time in school, teachers, and technology, we move closer to meeting the needs of all our students.”

“A new generation of learning tools enables us to think differently about instruction, time, progress, and staffing,” said Tom Vander Ark of Revolution Learning. “Some of the most innovative new school models in the world are emerging in New York City. The iZone will bring new practices and strategies to scale in a collaborative knowledge sharing network.”

In January, the Department of Education requested applications for schools to participate in the 2010-11 launch of the iZone, which began as a pilot program with 10 schools last year. Schools recommended by network leaders applied to participate in the iZone and 81 were selected through a process that included interviews and site visits.

Roughly half of iZone schools will pilot a “Virtual School” model, with some using online instruction for credit recovery and Advanced Placement courses, and others adopting a blended model that integrates online education with face-to-face learning. Another six schools will introduce “Time and Staffing” innovations, developing nimbler approaches to scheduling and staffing that increase learning time and foster greater teacher collaboration. Finally, 35 elementary schools will use “Adaptive Learning Technologies” that tailor instruction to each student’s knowledge and interests. These technologies provide real-time reports on student progress so that teachers focus their efforts on lessons students find most challenging.

The iZone is another example of how New York City is among the nation’s leading incubators of innovation in education. Last September, Chancellor Klein announced the creation of Quest to Learn, which uses computer gaming technology to frame learning for students in grades six through twelve. In March, the Department of Education opened as an afterschool program the “School of One”—a model that combines traditional teaching with cutting-edge instructional software, flexible classroom grouping and varying teacher assignments. School of One will expand to be part of the school day in three schools next fall.

The Innovation Zone is supported by a combination of local capital funds, stimulus funds, generous grants to The Fund for Public Schools from Cisco Global Education and the Ford Foundation, and research support from Harvard’s EdLabs.

Please visit for more information on the innovations, links to schools, and videos about new tools for teachers offered in the iZone.