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Friday, November 12, 2010

Emergency Protests in Manhattan and at Brooklyn Burough Hall; Criticism Widespread Against Black

Protests against Cathie Black's chancellorship are coming from all boroughs, even the New York State Assembly. Please take note of the fact that the Borough Presidents are 100% behind Black. The Borough Presidents are the people who appoint members to the Panel For Education Policy, and are showing how little respect they and their appointees have for all the parents, children and teachers in NYC public schools.

Betsy Combier


November 13, 2010, New York, NY. A press conference will be held tomorrow, Sunday, November 14, 2010 at 1 PM, in front of the Tweed Department of Education Building at 52 Chambers Street, Manhattan, where civil rights leaders, concerned citizens, parents of public school students and current and former public school students and teachers of New York City will release their letter sent to New York State Education Commissioner David Steiner, urging him not to grant New York City’s request for a waiver for Cathleen Black to become the next Chancellor of the New York City Public Schools.

The letter, in part, states:

“Because the leader of the New York City public schools is critical to the raising of academic levels of our children, and because we believe in equal opportunity as the best process for recruiting and evaluating competitive candidates for a job that deserves excellence... we
respectfully and strongly urge you to hold the Mayor’s appointee to the standards and qualifications set out in the statute for school superintendents…

“The fact that Mayor Bloomberg did not undertake a public search in accordance with equal employment opportunity principles in itself raises significant public policy issues, as well as the specter of cronyism.”

WHEN: Sunday, November 14, 2010----1 PM
TIME: One o’clock in the afternoon
WHERE: Tweed Education Building–52 Chambers Street
CONVENERS: Norman Siegel, Civil Rights Attorney
                          Michael Meyers, Executive Director, NY Civil Rights Coalition
                          Leonie Haimson, Executive Director, Class Size Matters

PARTICIPANTS: Leonie Haimson, Class Size Matters
                               Michael Meyers, New York Civil Rights Coalition
                               Norman Siegel, Civil Rights Attorney
                               Lavinia Forts, Staten Island Parent
                               Philip De Paolo, Brooklyn Parent

And others

For further information, please contact: Michael Meyers at 212-563-5636;
Leonie Haimson at 917-435-9329 or Norman Siegel at 347-907-0867.


Join me, Chris Owens, on Monday, November 15th, 10:00 AM, at a Brooklyn Borough Hall press conference to protest the selection of another schools Chancellor with no education experience. We need parents to come out and join us. Contact me regarding the program. If you can't be there in person, please send your remarks to me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

To read my position on this matter, please click here.

Thank you!

Hon. Chris Owens
District Leader, 52nd Assembly District
Member, NY State Democratic Committee

Assemblywoman Vanessa Gibson agrees:

Friday, November 12, 2010
Assemblywoman Gibson Criticizes Mayor's DOE Pick

Add Bronx Assemblywoman Vanessa Gibson to the growing list of legislators criticizing Mayor Bloomberg's appointment of Cathleen Black as the city's new Schools Chancellor.
In a letter to David M. Steiner, the commissioner of the New York State Education Department, Gibson said she "remain[s] troubled that Cathie Black would assume the role of Chancellor without neither substantial nor comprehensive educational or professional experience in teaching."

State law requires that school chiefs hold certain qualifications, including a professional certificate in educational leadership. But the law also allows the commissioner to make exceptions. Joel Klein, the outgoing chancellor, was given a waiver when he was offered the job in 2002, and Gibson doesn't want a repeat. Her letter, which was released to the press, is embedded below.

Gibson's letter
Tony Avella:
November 10, 2010 2:02 PM 4 Comments
Tony Avella: Deny Cathie Black A Chancellor's Waiver
By Celeste Katz

He's not yet in state Sen. Frank Padavan's seat, but Senator-elect Tony Avella is already out with a letter asking Education Commissioner David Steiner to deny Cathie Black the waiver she needs to become the next NYC schools chancellor.

Simply put, Avella agrees with those who say a professional educator -- which Black is not -- belongs in the job, not a magazine magnate who sent her own kids to an out-of-state private school.

Read for yourself:
Avella Letter to State Commissioner of Education Re Cathie Black

Read more:
Who is Cathie Black ... chairman of Hearst Magazines is Bloomberg's pick to replace Joel Klein

November 10, 2010 11:11 AM
Cathie Black - For Better Or Worse?
By Celeste Katz, Daily Politics
I got a slew of responses to Mayor Bloomberg's pick of Hearst Magazines exec Cathie Black to come in as NYC schools chancellor after Joel Klein leaves, so here's a selection of excerpts of what I heard. I'd be very interested to hear YOUR thoughts on this too... We will be having a livechat on this in a short while - stay tuned for more info!

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer: "While Cathie Black wasn’t on most people’s draft boards to become the next schools chancellor, she has been an all-star in the publishing world for years. I am glad to hear that her first order of business will be reaching out to parents, teachers, and other members of our school community, and I look forward to working with her to help improve city schools for all of our 1.1 million students."

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz: "On behalf of Brooklyn and our borough’s more than 300,000 public school students, their parents, guardians and teachers, I wish Chancellor Klein well and look forward to working with Cathie Black as she takes the helm of the Department of Education.”

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr: "In many ways Bronx parents and parents throughout the city have lost confidence in the Department of Education, and I am hopeful that Ms. Black will usher in a new era of collaboration and community responsiveness at the DOE while we work together to improve our public schools for the 1.1 million children who rely on them."

Brooklyn State Assemblyman Nick Perry: “A quick review of what is known about the background of Mayor Bloomberg’s announced choice, raises a lot of questions as to the direction, and the real agenda for our public education system. It is of concern that the newly appointed chancellor appears to have no significant educational background, as required by NYS Education Law. Furthermore, she was raised in a private school system, and subsequently raised her children in a private school system, it is very difficult to believe that a person who has such a strong history steeped in private education, will be able to appreciate the diverse and difficult challenge of running the NYC Public School System. Under NYS Education Law, Ms. Black, will not be able to officially assume the position without a waiver by the NYS Board of Regents and just a quick glimpse at her profile raises significant questions as to how such a waiver might be justified.”

Eva Moskowitz, Founder and CEO of Success Charter Network: “There are more high-performing public school options for parents in New York City than ever before, largely because of the climate that Chancellor Klein created for new schools that could be designed around excellent teaching and learning. Years from now, when we reach a day when all children in the city are offered the education they deserve, we will have Chancellor Klein to thank for the tough work of getting the reform ball rolling.”

Read on...
NYC Public Advocate Bill de Blasio: “I want to thank outgoing Chancellor Joel Klein for his service to our City. While I have not agreed with every decision he’s made, I sincerely respect his dedication to our children and the improvements he fostered in our schools. I also wish to extend a warm welcome to our new Schools Chancellor Cathie Black. I look forward to working with her to address the challenges still facing our education system, especially parental engagement and improving academic achievement for all students.”

Joe Williams, Democrats for Education Reform: “There is no doubt that New York City’s students have access to better schools and greater education opportunity today, than when Chancellor Klein took office 8 years ago. From his support for public charter schools, to his emphasis on accountability, Chancellor Klein has been a warrior for progressive education reforms and most importantly, an invaluable ally to our city’s children. We’re similarly excited to begin working with Chancellor Black to continue building on these important reforms and ensuring that every child in NYC gets a great education.”

City Councilman David Greenfield: “I welcome Cathie Black as the new chancellor of the Department of Education. As a member of the New York City Council’s Education Committee, I look forward to working closely with Ms. Black and hearing her vision for New York City schools. I believe that Ms. Black deserves a chance to succeed before others declare that she is a failure. I am especially gratified that she has broken the glass-ceiling of the New York City Department of Education.”

City Councilman Charles Barron (via the NYO): "My concern is not with who is stepping down, it is with who is stepping up. C'mon now. She is not an educator. How many times are we going to make this mistake? She should not be in there. This city has some great educators in the Black and Latino community. It's time to consult those educators."

Changes in Personnel at Tweed and NYSUT

Hmmmm......Chairman Chang resigned from the Panel For Educational Policy. I'll gladly receive any emails or calls from anyone who can give me the real scoop on why.

Of course, as everyone knows I believe all the PEP members should resign, because sooner or later they will probably be sued by NYC parents for harming their children and they all should run for the hills while they still have a chance. PEP members all know, or should know, that you have no legitimate right to vote on teacher terminations, approve school closings, etc. You are all appointed, and therefore do not directly represent anyone. I think we had a revolution several years ago about "no taxation without representation", didn't we?


November 12, 2010

No. 466


Panel Chairman David Chang Resigned Last Friday

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today appointed Robert Reffkin to the Panel for Educational Policy, replacing Chairman David Chang who resigned from the Panel on Friday, November 5th, 2010. Mr. Reffkin is a Vice President in the Principal Investment Area of Goldman Sachs & Company. Prior to joining Goldman Sachs, he was an Associate in the Mergers & Acquisitions Group at Lazard Frères, where he founded the firm’s Sponsors for Educational Opportunity Professional Internship program for minority students.

“In our efforts to reform and improve New York City public schools, David has been an invaluable member of the Panel for Educational Policy for eight years,” Mayor Bloomberg said. “Robert will be able to build on that progress by bringing exceptional problem solving skills and civic commitment, which will serve our schools and children well.”

"I want to thank David for his hard work and commitment to serving New York City’s public schools,” Chancellor Klein said. “His leadership and knowledge as an educator have been instrumental in our work to implement educational reforms. Robert’s professional background will be an asset to the Panel for Educational Policy and will help us successfully meet the Mayor’s educational goals.”

“I am incredibly honored to be appointed to the Panel for Educational Policy,” said Robert Reffkin. “Education provides the best pathway to opportunity, and I believe it is the most important issue facing New York City and our country. I look forward to working with Mayor Bloomberg and the Department of Education to ensure that all students in New York City have access to an education that will prepare them for the challenges of the 21st century.”

Mr. Reffkin currently serves on the boards of the Citizens Committee for New York City and New York Needs You – a nonprofit he founded to provide mentorship to first-generation college students. He is an Adjunct Professor atBrooklyn College where he teaches Small Business & Entrepreneurship. In 2005, he was appointed as a White House Fellow to serve as a special assistant to the Secretary of the Treasury. He is the former Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Bronx Success Academy 1. Mr. Reffkin earned his B.A. from Columbia University and M.B.A. from Columbia Business School.

The Panel for Educational Policy was created to replace the former Board of Education and is responsible for approving standards, policies and objectives directly related to educational achievement and instruction, as well as the Chancellor’s regulations and department contracts. The Mayor appoints eight panel members and each Borough President appoints one. The new Chairman of the Panel will be elected at the Tuesday, November 16th meeting.

Contact: Stu Loeser/Jessica Scaperotti (212) 788-2958
Natalie Ravitz/Deidrea Miller (Education) (212) 374-5141

At NYSUT, Chief Counsel James Sandner has retired.

It's Not Mayoral Control That Schools Need, It's Teamwork

Rutgers University has come out with research that Mayoral control does not improve student performance. Here in New York City we - at least I - have the opinion that raising student achievement was never the focus of Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Joel Klein (privatizing public education was), so the study may not answer the gnawing question of why the Bloomberg/Klein administration is such a disaster for NYC public schools.

However, I may agree with the comment that Mayoral control, valid and consistent accountability, transparency and teamwork with all parties involved will bring about reform. Please leave your ego at the door when you sign in.

Betsy Combier

Newark Mayor Cory Booker's school reforms may not improve student performance, study says
Jessica Calefati/The Star-Ledger, October 12, 2010
                              Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg
and NJ Gov. Chris Christie make their official announcement of the Facebook deal at Robert Treat Hotel.

NEWARK — Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s commitment to reform his city’s struggling schools may not help increase students’ performance in the classroom, according to research being presented today by the Institute on Education Law and Policy at Rutgers-Newark.

The study’s authors examined public school governance models in nine cities demographically and politically similar to New Jersey’s state-controlled school districts and found "no conclusive evidence" that greater mayoral participation in their governance led to improved student test scores.

"Student achievement has been the toughest nut to crack," the report says. "While school leaders tout many improvements in test scores, attendance and graduation rates, in fact we were unable to establish conclusively that the change in governance had any causal relationship to improved performance."

The study, produced by Rutgers staff with specialties ranging from economics to education law, is the latest in a series of national reports to review the effect of mayoral control over a large urban district. It was produced for the state education department as it develops a plan to have local municipalities regain control over schools in Newark, Paterson and Jersey City — three urban districts that are operated by the state.

The study looks at districts in Baltimore, Boston, Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit, Hartford, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

Paul Tractenberg, a Rutgers law professor and a principal author of the study, said the investigators who produced the study concluded that mayoral control is not the "magic bullet" for urban school reform it’s sometimes portrayed to be. The process also leaves parents and community groups complaining that they are left out of the policy-making process.

Researchers did, however, find that mayoral control brought stability, greater attention and increased public and private funding to the districts examined.

"Mayoral involvement, if not control, should at the very least be considered as part of an overall district improvement strategy," the report says.

The study’s findings are particularly relevant to Newark, where Booker has formed a partnership with Gov. Chris Christie and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in an attempt to transform Newark’s failing schools. The trio appeared on the "Oprah Winfrey Show" three weeks ago to announce Zuckerberg’s donation of a $100 million challenge grant to jump-start the effort.

While Zuckerberg made his high-profile pledge under the expectation that Booker would lead the district’s reformation, and Christie authorized the mayor to develop a reform plan with input from the community, Booker has no legal authority to fix any part of his city’s broken school system.

David Sciarra, executive director of the Education Law Center in Newark, has threatened to sue the state if Booker makes any decisions about the Newark schools.

In response to the Rutgers report, a spokeswoman for Newark said city officials realize it takes multiple forces, not just leadership, to improve the public school system.

"The reform initiative we will pursue does not include a formal change to school governance as it is explored in the Rutgers report, but is rather a community-driven effort that will solicit the voices of all Newarkers — students, parents, teachers, local leaders and concerned citizens alike — to shape a shared vision for how best to improve our public schools," Esmeralda Diaz Cameron said.

"We recognize that no single governance structure or individual will transform our school district; it will take the collective action and participation of our entire community to ensure that every Newark child has access to a high quality education," she added.

Past research on the efficacy of mayoral control is mixed. Kenneth Wong, an education policy professor at Brown University, studied five years of student achievement data and 10 years of spending data in a dozen urban school districts with mayoral control, and found they outperformed their counterparts controlled by school boards.

"Mayoral control systems do indeed perform better than their peers," said Wong, author of "The Education Mayor," a book that details his findings. "The education mayors were not spending more than their urban peers to achieve success — they were spending differently, like routing more money toward instructional purposes."

Fredrick Hess, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., drew different conclusions in a policy paper on mayoral control.

"For all the optimism that Boston and New York City have engendered, there is remarkably little evidence that mayors or appointed boards are more effective at governing schools than elected boards," Hess wrote in his 2008 report, "Assessing the Case for Mayoral Control of Urban Schools."

When asked about what effect, if any, Booker’s involvement in the Newark schools might yield, Hess said Booker could successfully push the system if he chooses to move aggressively, even if his official authority is limited.

"No one should interpret Booker’s involvement as a guarantee of anything," Hess said, "but if he’s smart about it, he will have a better chance of improving Newark’s schools than the current arrangement does."

Mayoral Control Fails To Improve Student Achievement Say Researchers at Rutgers University
By Esme E. Deprez - Oct 12, 2010 2:07 PM, Bloomberg News
Mayoral control, advocated by politicians pushing to overhaul underperforming school systems, fails to improve student achievement, according to a two-year study.

The research, conducted by the Institute of Education Law and Policy at Rutgers University, looked at improvements in nine education systems where there were changes in how the schools were governed, led by Baltimore, Boston and New York City. The study will provide guidance to New Jersey policy makers as the state prepares to return schools in Paterson, Newark and Jersey City to local control after as many as 21 years under state operation, the authors said.
The findings, the subject of a seminar today at the university’s Newark, New Jersey campus, raise questions about New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s plans to overhaul the schools in the state’s largest city by putting Mayor Cory Booker in charge, said Alan Sadovnik, professor of Education, Sociology and Public Administration and Affairs at Rutgers and co-author of the report in a telephone interview yesterday.

“Solving Newark’s problems will require more than mayoral control alone,” Sadovnik said. “Governance is one part of urban school improvement, which has to include effective school and administrative strategies and a variety of economic, community and health initiatives at the local level.”

Facebook Donation

Facebook Inc. founder Mark Zuckerberg said on Sept. 24 that he will donate $100 million to Newark’s schools. Almost half of all students in the district don’t graduate from high school.

Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, Washington and Hartford, Connecticut, were the other school systems that were part of the Rutgers study.

New school leadership helped improve efficiency and reduce corruption in Chicago, Cleveland, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington. In almost all the cities, mayoral control was associated with increased funding by either the state or the private sector, the study found.

Increased stability enabled school leaders and the community to concentrate on improving student achievement, the report said. In Cleveland, which had 13 superintendents in 15, turnover ended once the new governance system was installed, while frequent strikes by the unions stopped after mayoral control in Chicago.

Successful Bargaining

Mayoral leadership in New York and Chicago resulted in successful bargaining agreements with the teachers’ union to lengthen classroom hours and allow the creation of charter schools, the report also said.

At the same time, community input has diminished under the new models for running schools, the report noted. New York City parents, seeking a stronger voice in school policy, lobbied for changes in the mayoral control law, while parents in Chicago and Boston have complained they don’t have enough say in school closings, the report said.

“That’s a real negative,” Sadovnik said. “Most of the research indicates that parental involvement is a key ingredient in increasing student achievement.”

Christie has said he will give Booker a larger role in overseeing the district’s schools and its 39,000 students, and the mayor will also get a say in picking a new superintendent. Christie’s plan raises questions regarding the legality of the move without legislative action, the report said.

Mayoral involvement, or control, should be considered as part of an overall systematic approach to urban district improvement, the study said.

“The data certainly do not indicate that forms of governance with mayoral involvement have a negative effect on student achievement, but rather that governance may not be the most important factor; or, at the least, may be one of many factors in raising student achievement,” it said.

The mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.

To contact the reporter on this story: Esme E. Deprez in New York at
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jonathan Kaufman at