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Sunday, December 30, 2018

The NYC DOE Strategic Response Group Intercepts All Communications To The Chancellor

NYC DOE Chancellor Richard Carranza
One question I have for Chancellor Carranza (I actually have MANY, but the one I am asking here) is, "Are you keeping the Chancellor's Strategic Response Group?"

Oh, you want to know what the SRG is?

This is how the NYC Department of Education describes this entity on the 2nd floor of the Tweed NYC DOE headquarters at 52 Chambers Street:

As part of the New York City Department of Education, staff in the Chancellor’s Strategic Response Group (CSRG) responds to correspondence written to the Chancellor. Staff in the CSRG works on the Chancellor’s behalf to research, coordinate and respond to inquiries received from the NYC school community regarding policy and actions of central and district offices, as well as individual schools within the school system. As part of the Department of Communications, CSRG staff also works closely with the Offices of Public and Community Affairs, Intergovernmental Affairs, and Family Engagement to address issues raised by constituents at school/community meetings and events.

In August 2015 I posted the following article on one of my blogs:

Carmen Farina and the Chancellor's Strategic Response Group...and Other Useless Ways To Contact the NYC Department of Education

When you have a problem with the New York City Department of Education, who do you go to?
UFT President Mike Mulgrew, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, NYC DOE
Chancellor Carmen Farina
If you are a parent of a child with special needs (an IEP, a 504 Plan, or other related service providers) you would go to the Committee on Special Education for your district.

If you want to ask for an Impartial Hearing to obtain public funding for a private school for your child when the NYC DOE does not give your child a free and appropriate public education, you send an email/letter to the Impartial Hearing Office and to the New York State Education Department. (Full disclosure: I represent parents and children at Impartial Hearings as the Parent Advocate).

For suspensions and Office of Hearings Online (SOHO) database you can contact the Office of Safety and Youth Development (no one will tell you that the SOHO reports exist, parents and teachers are forbidden from seeing these discipline histories even for their own children). See here as well, Chancellor's Regulations A-450. (Full  disclosure: for 9 years I represented parents and their children at suspension hearings, and these hearings are a farce, designed to punish children - especially special needs children - for having a disability. Think about suing.)

For violence in the classroom committed by students:
*if you are an administrator, you contact the Office of Special Investigationsby sending an email to them in the Online Occurrence Report (OORS). By doing this, you are setting in motion the process I have written about in my article The Gotcha Squad. When OSI gets involved, their mandate is to create paperwork that says the violence in the classroom was committed by the teacher, not the student. This paperwork will be used in charging the employee if he/she is tenured, with 3020-a; if he/she is a probationary teacher, this person will receive a letter of discontinuance saying that the reason is that he/she harmed a child in his/her classroom. There is no option to receive a hearing within the DOE. The reason is that the NY State Education Department keeps a record and publishes this record of the State's most violent schools. Principals do NOT want to be on the VADIR list. They get bonus points for getting rid of the teacher as the culprit, instead.

*if you are a teacher, the best thing to do if you are assaulted in the classroom or a child is hurt in a fight, is to call 911 and get a police report. You most probably will be charged with something for doing this, but if you dont do it, and the principal gets a report into OORS, you will be charged with committing the harm. It's a catch 22.

And who do you contact if you have a big problem that no one will solve for you? The media.
The TWEED building, NYC DOE headquarters
52 Chambers Street, Manhattan
You thought that I would say UFT President Mike Mulgrew? No, he does not read or reply to any members' emails or letters, unless you have a personal relationship with him. I know. I used to work there.

How about the Chancellor? Carmen Farina, just like her predecessors, has a group at Tweed (DOE Headquarters) who intercept all the mail and emailsent to her. It is called the Chancellor's Strategic Response Group:


As part of the New York City Department of Education, staff in the Chancellor's Strategic Response Group (CSRG) responds to correspondence written to the Chancellor. Staff in the CSRG works on the Chancellor's behalf to research, coordinate and respond to inquiries received from the NYC school community regarding policy and actions of central and district offices, as well as individual schools within the school system. As part of the Department of Communications, CSRG staff also works closely with the Offices of Public and Community Affairs, Intergovernmental Affairs, and Family Engagement to address issues raised by constituents at school/community meetings and events."
In 2007 I post this on my website "":
Anyone Out There Looking For a Great Job Answering All of NYC BOE Joel Klein’s Emails and Letters?
All you need, it seems, is a high school diploma to become an employee of the New York City Board of Education's "Chancellor's Strategic Response Group". The salary is $34,166+...what's the +?????
From Betsy Combier:

I hope I’m not bursting anyone’s bubble when he/she believes that Joel Klein has responded to an email, personally. There is triage going on, as far as we can see. Several years ago I was trying to get transportation for a boy with cerebral palsey, and I decided to call Joel at Tweed. For some reason I was transferred to the Chancellor’s Strategic Response Group, where a person said, “Hello?” and I said, “Hi! May I speak with Joel Klein, please?” and the person said, “Oh no, we are the CSRG, who are you?” I said, “I’m a parent advocate trying to reach him about a boy I’m helping.” And the person said, “Well, we intercept all of his emails and letters, and answer them. “ I said, “That’s interesting!! How does this work?”

For the next 20 minutes I got the full rundown. And now they are in need of hiring someone!!! I would apply, but I’m too busy right now, so is there anyone out there who will – the deadline is Nov. 19 – and let me know, ok? Maybe if you get hired you’ll let my emails go through? Joel hasn’t responded to me since he whispered in my ear at Gracie Mansion years ago, “You know, Betsy, I’m not as bad as you think I am”…I said, “Joel, I hardly know you! It’s the system that you have set up that isn’t working!!! As I batted my green eyes.

Here’s the job(Think of the policy directives that you can give parents, teachers, students and everyone!):

Tracking Code


Job Description

Position Summary: The Chancellor's Strategic Response Group (CSRG) responds to correspondence written to the Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education (DOE). The Communications Associate works on the Chancellor's behalf to research, coordinate and respond to inquiries received from the NYC school community regarding the policies and actions of central and district offices, as well as of individual schools within the school system. As part of the Department of Communications, CSRG staff members also work closely with the Offices of Public and Community Affairs, Intergovernmental Affairs, and Family Engagement to address issues raised by constituents at school and community meetings and events.

Reports to: Director, Chancellor's Strategic Response Group

Key Relationships: Acts as a liaison between schools, DOE management and central offices by working closely with personnel to track ongoing school community issues and trends.


Receives, researches and responds to correspondence addressed to the Chancellor (by e-mail, US Mail, fax, etc.) from local community constituents on educational issues and concerns.
Responds directly in writing or coordinates responses with others to constituents, including community groups, in accordance with DOE policy.
Assists in the development of an internal communications network to establish a uniform system for problem-solving and troubleshooting local school community issues.
Represents the Chancellor and follows up with constituents and community groups as needed.
Synthesizes and analyzes statistical data on trends and issues in order to review current policies and forecast possible scenarios.
Serves as a "storehouse of knowledge" for current issues facing public schools in New York City.


Minimum Requirements

1.High school graduation or equivalent and three years of experience in community work or community-centered activities in an area related to the duties described above; or

2. A combination of education and experience that is equivalent to "1" above.


A baccalaureate degree in English, Journalism, Communications or a related field.
Excellent writing skills.
Exceptional interpersonal skills and ability to communicate orally and in writing with internal staff and the New York City school community.
Ability to multi-task and manage multiple deadlines in a team environment.
Ability to work well under pressure to get accurate information from diverse sources.
Ability to be self-motivated and to handle numerous responsibilities in a timely manner.
Excellent working knowledge of Microsoft Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint, and other programs.
Salary: $34,166 +

Applications will be accepted through November 19, 2007. Applications will not be accepted without both a resume and cover letter.

NOTE: The filling of all positions is subject to budget availability.


It is the policy of the Department of Education of the City of New York to provide educational and employment opportunities without regard to race, color, religion, creed, national origin, alienage and citizenship status, age, marital status, disability, prior record of arrest or conviction (except as provided by law), sexual orientation, gender (sex), and to maintain an environment free of discriminatory harassment, including sexual harassment, or retaliation as required by civil rights law. Inquiries regarding compliance with this equal opportunity policy may be directed to: Office of Equal Opportunity, 65 Court Street, Room 923, Brooklyn, New York 11201, or visit the OEO website at

Job Location

Tweed (52 Chambers Street) (TWEE)

Position Type: Full-Time/Regular

New Posting: Yes

Readvertisement: No

Recanvass: No

District: N/A
In 2005, we obtained the salary list and job titles of the employees who work at Tweed, the headquarters of the New York City Department of Education. We called a few of these employees who had, it seemed to us, an unusual job description - such as "PRIN ADMIN ASSOC", and "ADMIN SPACE ANALYST", etc., and we found out that these positions are not at all what the titles suggest.

We are FOILing the training materials:

The E-Accountability Foundation
Betsy Combier, President


Ms. Christine Kicinski November 12, 2007
Central Records Access Officer
Office of Legal Services
New York City Department of Education
52 Chambers Street
New York, NY 10007

Dear Ms. Kicinski:

Under the provisions of the New York Freedom of Information Law, Article 6 of the Public Officers Law, I hereby request to obtain/inspect records or portions thereof pertaining to:

1) all emails, notes, memos, and training materials given to any employee of The Chancellor’s Strategic Response Group (CSRG)that describes the responsibilities, job requirements, bonuses, and training for any employee of the CSRG.

2) all correspondence to/from the CSRG with the name “Joel Klein” in any form, electronic or other, that is intercepted/sent/received by the CSRG during the 2006-2007 school year.

After the inspection, I may decide to purchase copies of the entire records or certain portions thereof.

If you have any questions relating to the specific records or portions being sought, please phone me at 212-794-8902 so that we may discuss them.

As you know, the Freedom of Information Law requires that an agency respond to a request within five business days of receipt of a request. Therefore, I would appreciate a response as soon as possible and look forward to hearing from you shortly. If for any reason any portion of my request is denied, please inform me of the reasons for the denial in writing and provide the name and address of the person or body to whom an appeal should be directed.


Betsy Combier

We received a Power point on the SRG, which I made into a pdf file.

Enjoy. Just do not believe you are contacting the Chancellor when you send him an email or when you try to call him. Fugeddaboutit.
The NYPOST Reporter Carl Campanile called this group "Klein's School-Gripe 'SWAT' TEAM'" in 2004. Did I give you that story, Carl?

Julia Levy wrote about this group in 2005:

I had heard about the CSRG for several years before I tried contacting someone there, and I was lucky and actually reached a person who works there.I guess she must have believed that I was an administrator, because she chatted with me for quite a while about how busy the office was, the ridiculous comments and emails she had received in the morning of that day, etc. When I asked her how she decides what to answer or when to send on an important matter to a "higher up", she told me that she just answers everything the same way and it doesn't matter what the email/letter says. Usually the person who sent the email/letter to the Chancellor never re-sends or answers the form reply.

In June, a parent whose child is desperately in need of a new school sent the reply from Ilana Rudolf of CSRG to me after the parent wrote a long plea to Chancellor Farina:

"Thank you for your email to the Chancellor on behalf of your daughter who is a registered student at J.H.S. in Manhattan. We appreciate you sharing your concerns with us.
Upon receipt of your email, I contacted Principal for information. Principal informed me you met with her and Ms. to address the concerns referenced in your letter. It is my understanding that they informed you that as the bullying incidents referenced in your email were unsubstantiated, your daughter does not qualify for a safety transfer. Additionally, Principal told me that your daughter's attendance was discussed at the meeting and school personnel recommended a re-evaluation of your daughter’s Individualized Education Program. However, I understand that you have refused a re-evaluation at this time.

Given that your daughter does not qualify for a safety transfer, I strongly recommend that you continue to work with Principal , the District Family Advocate, Ms. , and school-based personnel, as they are in the best position to address your concerns. Moreover, please be advised that the Department of Education strongly urges parents to ensure that their children are attending school at least 90 percent of the school year, as attendance factors heavily into student progress and promotion.

I hope this information has been helpful. Thank you again for writing to the Chancellor, and I wish you and your family a safe and relaxing summer.


Ilana Rudolf
Communications Associate
Chancellor’s Strategic Response Group
NYC Department of Education
52 Chambers Street, Room 215, New York, NY 10007"
You could have applied to be an intern for the summer:

Stanford University Professor Bruce McCandliss Finds That Phonics Works Best For Beginning Readers

 OK, NYC Department of Education - and all other school districts, listen up. I think it is time to stop the incessant changing of curricula in our nations' schools, and listen to the people who know the brain best, or at least more than most administrators.

Below is an article from May 28, 2015 on the work of Professor Bruce McCandliss at Stanford University. He has studied the value of teaching reading by using letter-sound relationships, or phonics:

Stanford study on brain waves shows how different teaching methods affect reading development
 Stanford News
Stanford Professor Bruce McCandliss found that beginning readers who focus on letter-sound relationships, or phonics, increase activity in the area of their brains best wired for reading.


Beginning readers who focus on letter-sound relationships, or phonics, instead of trying to learn whole words, increase activity in the area of their brains best wired for reading, according to new Stanford research investigating how the brain responds to different types of reading instruction.

In other words, to develop reading skills, teaching students to sound out "C-A-T" sparks more optimal brain circuitry than instructing them to memorize the word "cat." And, the study found, these teaching-induced differences show up even on future encounters with the word.

The study, co-authored by Stanford Professor Bruce McCandliss of the Graduate School of Education and the Stanford Neuroscience Institute, provides some of the first evidence that a specific teaching strategy for reading has direct neural impact. The research could eventually lead to better-designed interventions to help struggling readers.

"This research is exciting because it takes cognitive neuroscience and connects it to questions that have deep meaning and history in educational research," said McCandliss, who wrote the study with Yuliya Yoncheva, a researcher at New York University, and Jessica Wise, a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin.
Instructional strategies

Theories on reading development have long supported the importance of a phonics foundation, especially for early learners and struggling readers, yet investigating the way in which brain mechanisms are influenced by the choices a teacher makes is a fairly recent endeavor, according to McCandliss.

As the field of educational neuroscience grows, however, both brain researchers and educational researchers can improve their understanding of how instructional strategies can best be harnessed to support the brain changes that underlie the development of learning, he added.

In the study, released this month in the journal Brain and Language, the researchers devised a new written language and contrasted whether words were taught using a letter-to-sound instruction method or a whole-word association method. After learning multiple words under both approaches, the newly learned words were presented in a reading test while brainwaves were monitored.

McCandliss's team used a brain mapping technique that allowed them to capture brain responses to the newly learned words that are literally faster than the blink of an eye.

Remarkably, the researchers said, these very rapid brain responses to the newly learned words were influenced by how they were learned.

Words learned through the letter-sound instruction elicited neural activity biased toward the left side of the brain, which encompasses visual and language regions. In contrast, words learned via whole-word association showed activity biased toward right hemisphere processing.

McCandliss noted that this strong left hemisphere engagement during early word recognition is a hallmark of skilled readers, and is characteristically lacking in children and adults who are struggling with reading.

In addition, the study's participants were subsequently able to read new words they had never seen before, as long as they followed the same letter-sound patterns they were taught to focus on. Within a split second, the process of deciphering a new word triggered the left hemisphere processes.

"Ideally, that is the brain circuitry we are hoping to activate in beginner readers," McCandliss said.

By comparison, when the same participants memorized whole-word associations, the study found that they learned sufficiently to recognize those particular words on the reading test, but the underlying brain circuitry differed, eliciting electrophysiological responses that were biased toward right hemisphere processes.

"These contrasting teaching approaches are likely having such different impact on early brain responses because they encourage the learner to focus their attention in different ways," McCandliss said. "It's like shifting the gears of the mind – when you focus your attention on different information associated with a word, you amplify different brain circuits."

While many teachers are now using phonics to teach reading, some may be doing it more effectively than others, McCandliss said.

"If children are struggling, even if they're receiving phonics instruction, perhaps it's because of the way they are being asked to focus their attention on the sounds within spoken words and links between those sounds and the letters within visual words," he said.

"We can direct attention to a larger grain size or a smaller grain size, and it can have a big impact on how well you learn."
Monitoring brain waves

The study involved 16 literate adult participants, yet, according to McCandliss, gained its statistical power by teaching all participants in two different ways, much like what a typical student may experience when learning from different teachers or trying to master irregular words that don't conform to letter-to-sound mapping, such as "yacht."

The new written language was based on line features that formed symbols representing different letters of a new alphabet. The symbols were joined to represent a distinct visual word.

Each participant was trained to read two sets of three-letter words under identical conditions that provided practice viewing words and listening to corresponding spoken words. The only difference between the two training conditions was a set of instructions at the beginning that encouraged the readers to approach learning the words in one of two ways.

One instruction asked learners to approach the task of learning each word by picking out each of the three-letter symbols and matching each to the corresponding sound in the spoken word. The other focused on teaching the association between whole printed and spoken words.

After training was completed, participants were hooked up to an electroencephalograph, or EEG, that monitored brain waves while they took a reading test on word-figures they had already learned. Following the letter-sound style of training, participants were also tested on their ability to read new words composed of the same letters.

"When we looked under the hood, we found that the participants could learn to read under both forms of instruction but the brain activation showed that learning happened in very different ways," McCandliss said.

He said the results underscore the idea that the way a learner focuses their attention during learning has a profound impact on what is learned. It also highlights the importance of skilled teachers in helping children focus their attention on precisely the most useful information.

Bruce McCandliss, Stanford Graduate School of Education:

Brooke Donald, communications manager, Stanford Graduate School of Education: (650) 721-1402,

Saturday, December 1, 2018

NYC High School Suddenly Changes Admission Policy at the 11th Hour

Millenium High School
Chalkbeat reports that the admissions rules at Millenium High School have changed just weeks before applications are increase diversity.

Whenever I read "Surprise"...."untimely"....How the change could increase diversity is unclear",
I smell trouble.

It looks to me and others who understand the chaos within the Department of Education that the new "Equity For All" Policy may indeed be just the latest garbage thrown out by the Department. Our new Chancellor, Richard Carranza, came to NYC from Houston Texas and may not know the ways and politics of New York City.

We do not believe that there is no one in NYC who could do the job of Chancellor. Not possible.

 Betsy Combier
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, NYC Public Voice

Surprise: Manhattan’s Millennium High School changes admissions rules just weeks before application deadline
Chalkbeat, November 26, 2018
A sought-after Lower Manhattan high school has changed its admissions rules just weeks before applications are due, in an effort that school officials say is aimed at increasing diversity.

 Until now, Millennium High School has given top preference to students living below Houston Street, then prioritized students living elsewhere in Manhattan. According to the city, just four students from outside the borough were offered a seat at the school last year.

That didn’t sit right with school officials, who asked the city this spring to eliminate the preference for Manhattan students from above Houston Street. The education department approved that request — months later, on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.

“It came at the 11th hour,” Kathy Lee, Millennium’s parent coordinator, said about the approval. “It’s not the most timely change.” [Emphasis added-Ed]

The change shouldn’t affect how students rank schools on their high school application, due Dec. 3. The city’s algorithm is designed to work as long as students rank schools they are eligible to attend in the order they’d like to attend them.

Still, it is likely to reduce some Manhattan students’ chance of admission — and is sure to create anxiety among eighth-graders as they learn that admissions rules are changing as the deadline nears. Lee said she has been fielding calls and emails from anxious families ever since the school updated its website last week, she said.

The shift also highlights a tension in the city’s efforts to increase school diversity. When community school districts put forth plans to integrate schools, as has happened recently in Manhattan’s District 3 and Brooklyn’s District 15, those changes affect only elementary or middle schools and are made after public conversation. Admissions rules for high schools, on the other hand, change at individual schools’ request, and they follow an opaque process and timeline. (One big exception: Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposed changes for the city’s specialized high schools, which use a separate admissions system.)

“Schools make decisions about admissions priorities in collaboration with their superintendent and the Office of Student Enrollment,” a city education department spokesperson, Will Mantell, wrote in an email.

“Millennium leadership worked with the Office of Student Enrollment to look at data, and change its admissions priority in a way that worked best for the school community and the goals it is trying to accomplish.”

Millennium is keeping the Lower Manhattan preference, which resulted in students living or attending middle school below Houston Street receiving 70 percent of offers last year. Last school year, city data show that 45 percent of Millennium students were Asian, 31 percent were white, 14 percent were Hispanic, and 6 percent were black.

How the change could increase diversity is unclear. [Emphasis added - Ed.] The area south of Houston includes Chinatown, and while Manhattan north of Houston Street has many affluent and white families, it also includes the borough’s largest concentrations of black and Hispanic students. Other boroughs have lower proportions of white and affluent students, but the school could still easily fill its seats with those students.

A note posted to the school’s website suggests that further changes could come to the school. “This revision, made with the support of Superintendent Richard Cintron and Executive Superintendent Recy Benjamin Dunn, is an important step in promoting equity of access to Millennium,” the note reads.