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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Johanna Chase, CEO of Special Education, is Ousted and Replaced by Christina Foti

 Is Carmen Farina's political agenda unraveling?
Let's hope so.

Special ed CEO lacks credentials; Department of Education defends choice

City Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina, right, seen here with Kamillah Hanks, Borough Hall liasion to the
Panel for Education Policy, left, has visited Staten Island numerous times since she was appointed, and has heard
complaints from special education parents, teachers and advocates about the system. (Staten Island Advance)
Betsy Combier
Special education CEO is out;

DOE taps replacement with experience in the field

Diane C. Lore | lore@siadvance.comBy Diane C. Lore | 
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on September 22, 2014 at 6:42 PM, updated September 22, 2014 at 7:07 PM

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Johannah Chase is out as the Department of Education's chief executive officer of special education, the Advance has learned.
Her ouster, after only six months in the position, comes  after the Advance reported that Ms. Chase had no license in supervision and administration; no special education experience, and an expired teaching license, and a number of articles reporting on special ed problems under her watch.

Her replacement, announced Monday in an in-house memo from Deputy Chancellor Corinne Rello-Anselmi -- a copy of which was obtained by the Advance -- is Christina Foti, currently principal of PS 231 in Brooklyn.

Christina Foti
The memo did not indicate whether Ms. Chase was leaving the DOE system, or why she was leaving her special ed post.

Acknowledging she had "mixed emotions" about Chase's departure, and while wishing her well, the deputy chancellor, in her memo,  also noted, "it is essential that the new leader of the Special Education Office have a demonstrated commitment to students with special needs and solid leadership skills."

Ms. Foti has a bachelor's degree from Vassar; a master's degree in special education from the City University of New York and a postgraduate degree in education leadership from Hunter College. She has worked as a special education teacher, assistant principal and as a principal in District 75, which is comprised of special education schools throughout the five boroughs.
"In these roles she has developed skills in instruction, writing quality IEPs [individualized education plans], and professional support, as well as a deep understanding of the Shared Path framework," noted Ms. Rello-Anselmi, referring to the DOE's ambitious plan to revamp the special ed system.

The special education office is in charge of day-to-day management of the system, which serves more than 200,000 students. It involves supervising teams at 13 sites in all five boroughs, with more than 800 field staff; overseeing the administration of federal and state grants, and ensuring compliance, implementing services to children and working with parents, advocates, community members and union officials.
A central policy shift in the "Shared Plan for Success" reform is "home-zoning" of special education students. 

In the past, a student with a particular special need would often be placed at a school with the resources best suited to meet that need.
Under the reform, the student remains at his or her zoned school and the school is now responsible for providing the service.

While the intended benefit is to keep students close to home, problems frequently surface when the school does not have the required programs or staffing in place. The reform is aimed at "home-zoning" all students, except the most extreme cases, which are shifted to an appropriate District 75 special education school.

But special education staff, parents and advocates complain that resources are scarce; parents say their children are not being served, and some say their child's individualized education plan (IEP) isn't being followed.
Those responsible for delivering services to students in need complain they are mired in bureaucratic paperwork, hampering their efforts.

Describing her philosophy of learning on her LinkedIn profile page, Ms. Foti wrote: 'It is my belief that all children, irrespective of disability, can rise to meet expectations when caring professionals provide high quality programs that support the academic, physical and social development of students."

Special education advocates welcomed news of her appointment.
"If she can live up to her philosophy she'll be great for the kids, the parents, teacher and professionals. It's all about understanding the children and their needs. It sounds really simple, but to find someone who really understands a child is not easy," said special education advocate Laura Timoney, a member of the Community Education Council and parent of a special-needs child.

Johanna Chase
The ouster of Ms. Chase and appointment of Ms. Foti reportedly was endorsed by City Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina, who has heard complaints from all sides during her visits to Staten Island and has made special ed reform one of her priorities since she was appointed by Mayor Bill deBlasio in January.

Ms. Chase was appointed special ed CEO in March. Since then, the Advance reported, several key administrators in her office were also found to have little to no teaching or supervisory experience in special ed, or lacked state certification in education administration and supervision.
Under her watch, the DOE mishandled $356 million in federal fundsmeant to cover special education services such as speech, occupational and physical therapy, evaluation and counseling and pupil transportation.

Her office also received a storm of criticism from parents and special education advocates for slashing $250,000 from a small but successful program known as the Transitional Aspergers Program (TAP), which helps students diagnosed with Asperger's make the transition from intermediate school to high school. Money for the program has reportedly been restored after the Advance reported on the cut.


It is my belief that all children, irrespective of disability, can rise to meet expectations when caring professionals provide high quality programs that support the academic, physical and social development of students. As a principal, my greatest joy comes from working with the staff, students and families of PS 231K to fulfill the mission of our school.

At PS 231K, it is our mission to create a core of learners through the collaborative efforts of the students, staff, parents and community. The role of the “teacher” is not limited to the adult, but is extended to the child. In doing so, each child discovers his/her own unique potential, talents, purpose and greatness through a differentiated, interdisciplinary approach inclusive of technological as well as social emotional learning. We strive to show our students that the biggest classroom is the world around them. We do this by using all available resources to bring the world into the classroom and the classroom into the world. PS 231K students become independent, productive, problem-solving citizens that seek challenges rather than shy away from them.

Interested in joining our team as a teacher, administrator, related service provider or paraprofessional? Contact me at



NYC Department of Education
– Present (4 years 9 months)

Assistant Principal

PS 811M -- The Mickey Mantle School
(2 years 6 months)


Vassar College

Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), Sociology and Women's Studies


Chief Executive Officer, Special Education at NYC Department of Education
  1. NYC Department of Education,
  2. KIPP: STAR College Prep Charter School,
  3. Teach for America
  1. Pace University


Corps Member Advisor

Teach for America
(4 months)

8th Grade Math Teacher

NYC Department of Education
(2 years)Essence School, I.S. 311, Brooklyn, NY

CSA at Work: Small Change, Major Havoc

‘Supervisors of’ Face New Reorganization

by Anne Silverstein

The re-assignment of six Supervisors of Psychology from the recently disbanded Cluster 3 this summer has snowballed into an avalanche of questions about how some “Supervisors of…” should receive new assignments.

CSA has been in weekly, sometimes daily, conversations with the Department of Education since early August concerning Supervisors of Speech and Supervisors of Psychologists. The number of members affected has grown as the conversation topic has expanded: Now the assignments of about 30 Supervisors of Speech and 30 Supervisors of Psychology are at stake.

“We believe that district-like assignments make the most sense in providing support services to schools,” said CSA President Ernest Logan. With the current system of cluster assignments, Supervisors of... may have schools in two or three boroughs. “We’re wasting valuable time sitting in traffic and looking for parking spaces,” Mr. Logan said.
Summarizing the situation is difficult because the problem has grown – and changed – since the question of how to reassign six Supervisors of Psychology from Cluster 3 arose. Briefly here’s what happened, according to Audrey Fuentes, Executive Director Field Services, who has spearheaded the union’s efforts to bring member concerns to the DOE’s attention:

After the dissolution of Cluster 3 this summer, the DOE made tentative assignments for the six Supervisors of Psychology and planned to ask for feedback on the proposed placements in the remaining five Clusters, said Ms. Fuentes. During an early exchange with the DOE, Ms. Fuentes asked who would be the new rating supervisors for these members, and then opened the proverbial can of worms by asking, “What will happen to Cluster 3’s Supervisors of Speech?” Meanwhile, the six Supervisors of Psychology were tentatively reassigned.

By Aug. 29, the first day back for 10-month Supervisors, the DOE responded to Ms. Fuentes’
question with a proposal that perhaps all Supervisors of Speech should be aligned by Districts/Boroughs; the DOE then sent a survey to about 30 Supervisors of Speech assigned to Clusters to ask them their preferences. (Editor’s Note: Readers may be confused about the DOE asking anything about districts since from 2003 the DOE has assiduously battled to eliminate districts and assignments by district.)

Ms. Fuentes responded by expressing her concerns as to how member preferences will be handled, i.e. what would happen if two people wanted the same assignment, and what recourse members would have if they were unhappy. (She also asked to see the assignments for the Cluster 3 Supervisors of Psychology.) The DOE’s response was a little opaque, but ultimately said experience and prior work in a specific district was to be the criteria.

“Supervisors of Speech heard about the reassignments unofficially,” said Ms. Fuentes recently, “and there was an uproar from speech supervisors in terms of their assignments.” At this point, Ms. Fuentes asked Johannah Chase of the DOE’s Division of School Support and Instruction with whom she had been dealing, for a complete list of new assignments. “Our members were asking, ‘How come I got this district when I asked for another district?” Others felt they had been discriminated against, orthought one supervisor had been ‘favored’ over another.” Ms. Fuentes suggested these supervisors write to Ms. Chase.

“It was not clear to our members how decisions were made,” said Ms. Fuentes; the DOE’s attempts for transparency had not only fallen flat, but had created anger. So more meetings were held in September to discuss the issues. “We said, ‘If you’re going to ask for preferences as you make changes, you need to use seniority to make the decisions to be transparent and fair; you have to use a method that can be easily explained to the people involved.”

While the DOE has OK’ed assigning Supervisors of Speech in alignment with districts/ boroughs (since their jobs are closely aligned with schools,) it continues to say “no” to this method for placing Supervisors of Psychologists. The explanation is that Supervisors of Psychologists are aligned with clusters, which cross district and borough lines.

At a Sept. 26 meeting, the DOE said it was having trouble compiling seniority lists for Supervisors of Speech. By Oct. 26, Ms. Fuentes said, the list was to have been delivered to her but still hadn’t arrived. As for Supervisors of Psychologists, CSA is still pushing for the DOE to assign them by district/borough, but continues to meet resistance.