Join the GOOGLE +Rubber Room Community

Friday, July 31, 2020

The Reopening of NYC Schools Requires The Hiring of Competent Project Managers

Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Carranza have  issued their school reopening plan:
Mayor de Blasio, Carranza roll out NYC school reopening plan for fall
Selim Algar and Julia Marsh, NY POST, July 31, 2020

Here are the main points:
"Mayor Bill de Blasio officially presented his school reopening plan Friday — calling for a weekly “blended approach’’ of in-class and online learning for “a vast majority of kids.”
Most students will physically be in class two to three days a week, the mayor said.
“You can certainly say, ‘Yeah, it’s gonna be tough, it’s gonna take a lot of work,’ ’’ Hizzoner told reporters in a conference call.
He said the city’s daily positive-test rate for the coronavirus must remain below 3 percent for the plan to work. He said Friday’s figures show it remains steady at 1 percent."

We believe that the reopening of NYC schools is woefully under-planned, and this should worry everyone, not just the educators, staff, parents, and students whose health and safety are at stake. What are parents to do if they work full-time? 
We are in a fiscal emergency. The budget of the DOE is more than $34 billion with a "b"

"The New York City Office of Management and Budget has projected a $7.4 billion loss in tax revenue due to the pandemic across previous expectations for the fiscal year 2020-21. The DOE’s fiscal 2020-21 budget of $34.2 billion includes $27.5 billion in operating funds and another $6.7 billion in education-related pensions and debt service funds."

Add to these numbers the fact that there is no accountability for the spending of a large percentage of these funds, and no management team at the Chancellor's level to design effective strategies and implementation, and you can realize how big the crisis is at the DOE. My many sources inside the DOE tell me in despair that there is no inter-departmental collaboration or communication. The left foot does not know what the right foot is doing.

Mark Treyger
The inaction and negligence of the NY City Council Education Committee to do anything to make these issues go away is the worst part of all of this because the Council is the voice of the public since Mayoral control over the DOE was approved in 2002 and 2009, and the school board was silenced. When a hearing on Special Education was being held in the fall of 2019, I gave Education Chair Mark Treyger details of how bad the situation was in the NYC DOE for these special needs kids, and in ICT classes. I never heard back from him, nor has his Committee issued any report with the data.

I attended the meeting in Manhattan on the continuance of Mayoral control several months ago, (I oppose Mayoral control) and I heard New York State Assembly Education Committee Chair Michael Benedetto warn all speakers that no criticism of Mayor de Blasio or Chancellor Richard Carranza would be allowed. He repeated this warning several times, as speaker after speaker did not follow his advice, including me. Carranza appeared for about 1/2 hour and gave his statement about how wonderful he (Carranza) was, then left.

Excellent project management is no secret. There are steps that must be taken to assure completion in a timely fashion:
The project scope statement  
The project scope statement is a key document that provides all stakeholders with a clear understanding of why the project was initiated and defines its key goals. Most project scope statements will include these elements.
  • A project statement of work (SoW), which is a detailed breakdown of all work to be performed by a project team and any important elements that may impact the outcome
  • Constraints that might limit or negatively impact the outcome of the project, including resources, procurement issues, timing, or lack of information
  • Scope exclusions, which can be anything that will not be part of the project or its deliverables
  • Milestones that provide the exact date that something will be delivered or completed
  • The final deliverables that will be provided to the customer at the end of the project — for example, a report, a software feature, any process insights or analysis, or any product or service that a customer needs
  • Acceptance criteria that spell out exactly how success will be measured
  • Final approval whereby the customer will sign-off on the scope statement confirming that all parameters have been included and the document is complete and accurate
Key steps for defining your project scope
Properly defining the scope of a project is the key to successfully managing your project. Here are the steps you can follow to define your project scope.
  1. Work with key stakeholders to define and create a scope statement by identifying what is within scope, and out of scope. Collaborating with stakeholders helps to ensure essential things do not fall through the cracks.
  2. Identify, document, and communicate assumptions. Assumptions are those elements that relate to the project that are assumed to be true for the duration of the project. Assumptions are necessary to provide an estimate of the cost and schedule to deliver the project’s scope during the planning phase of a project.
  3. Gain buy-in for the scope statement with the stakeholders who are most impacted to ensure that everyone is on the same page.
Fixing this is simple. Remove, replace, or reassign Chancellor Carranza to a spokesperson job, let him sit in his regal office while the rest of us work on a strategic plan that includes all constituents' needs with a focus on placing kids first. Get competent and effective project managers to round up the players at the NYC DOE in order to create a new way for the New Normal public education. We cannot go back.

We can do this. We must do this.

Betsy Combier

School-reopening plans ought to put the kids — not the adults — firstPost Editorial Board, July 30, 2020

Mayor Bill de Blasio is set to unveil his school-reopening plan Friday. Thanks to his reluctance to cross the United Federation of Teachers, it’s sure to be another bust.
The “blended” model already floated by Chancellor Richard Carranza looks to be a worst-of-both-worlds mix of alternating remote and in-class instruction.
We can’t endorse the alternate plan offered by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams (since it would keep all kids home until October), but at least it moves to full-time in-school classes for kids 10 and under: As he notes, all the science suggests those children are at minimal virus risk and don’t even spread the bug significantly.
But the teachers’ union opposes nearly all in-person classes, preferring continued remote “instruction” — though it so far isn’t willing to agree that teachers actually have to show up even virtually for such classes.
Randi Weingarten, the head of the UFT’s national parent union, is forthright about supporting strikes if districts where infection rates are over 5 percent order teachers back to school, claiming: “If people die while they are educating kids, you eviscerate any credibility that you would have going forward about whether or not a school is safe.”
Yet experts agree that children learn best when physically present in the classroom. The venerable American Academy of Pediatrics says no student should be excluded from school unless infected and that “school policies should be guided by supporting the overall health and well-being of all children.”
Meanwhile, school after school is reporting that Carranza’s rules mean students won’t be in the building more than half the time, sometimes not even a third of it. Even so, the custodians’ union is saying more staff will be needed for the daily sanitizing regime.
None of these adults seems focused on their top duty: ensuring kids get the education they need.

NYC school reopening plan doesn’t explain how to keep kids safe, lawmakers argue
Reopening schools will be expensive. NYC pols are demanding a spending plan from the city and state.

Townsend Harris Loses Funding For Their College Bridge Program

Townsend Harris High School in Queens
J.C. Rice
Like a huge wave that rises up over the most beautiful sandcastle at the beach and reduces it to a mound of shapeless nothing starting at the top, Chancellor Carranza is unraveling the best schools New York City has, all in the name of "equality".

Principal Brian Condon (left) with a student
Townsend Harris High School has been a jewel within the NYC Department of Education for many years. However, the selective admissions process assured its' demise, along with Stuyvesant High School, Bronx Science, and all the specialized schools (which THHS is not). 

Mr. Carranza has seen fit to defund the school's College Bridge Program, which by all accounts brought the best and brightest kids to its' doors.  

PTA Co-President Bill Rettig is quoted below as saying,

“As a parent, I support the QC Bridge program and recognize that we need to keep it and the [36] year tradition behind it. This program has been under threat before. It is a part of what defines us as a ‘humanities school’ and is an integral part of our identity,”

Carranza's purpose, it seems to me, is to lower the standards of Townsend Harris so that all students throughout the NYC DOE system have the same average opportunity to reach mediocrity. This way, no student gets privileges over any other.

But there is a different way, one which I personally subscribe to: giving all students the same high expectations and College Bridge Programs so that the so-called "equality" is achieved by every student reaching their personal best. Teachers know that high expectations get high achievement.

Please, Townsend Harris Community, join together and get the College Bridge Program back. Do whatever you can to rise up and tell the Chancellor and Mayor that 'taking away' rather than 'finding a way' is not the solution.

Betsy Combier

Department of Education defunds key program at top city high school
Selim Algar, NY POST, July 29, 2020
Townsend Harris Principal Brian Condon

The Department of Education is defunding a program at a top city high school that allows students to earn credits at Queens College during their senior year, The Post has learned`.
Citing budget pressures, the DOE cut money for the College Bridge program at Townsend Harris High School in Queens, a pillar of its citywide appeal since its 1984 inception.
In a letter to parents, principal Brian Condon lashed the DOE for the move and said it was using COVID-19 as a pretext to damage the coveted screened school.
“It is an exploitation of the pandemic to do what could not be done in the light of day over the past four years, despite the best efforts of a few thoughtless bureaucrats and politically-motivated actors who have been set on decimating the program that has consistently led Townsend Harris to being recognized as one of the best schools in our borough, our city, our state, and our nation,” Condon wrote.
The DOE pushed back on Condon, arguing that no other school receives similar funding and that there is a separate citywide College Bridge program that will remain intact.
The department argued that Condon can still make other budgetary cuts at his school to preserve the program.
“This special allocation was unique to Townsend Harris, and, in the interest of equity, we sought to work with school leadership to find alternative means to continue funding this program within their budget if they choose to,” said DOE spokesman Nathaniel Styer.
During their senior year, students take two classes at Queens College each semester and earn a total of 12 credits before setting foot on a university campus.
“This program is one of the facets that makes Townsend Harris special,” said Craig Slutzkin, Co-President of the Townsend Harris Alumni Association. “Students are promised this from the day they come into school. They count on it for intellectual rigor, for college prep and for financial reasons.”
Slutzkin noted that Townsend Harris has a high population of low-income immigrant kids for whom the financial benefits of the program are essential.
The school enrolls roughly 1,200 students and is 56 percent Asian, 19 percent white, 12 percent Hispanic, and 7 percent African-American.
According to the DOE, 47 percent qualify for free lunch, a common marker of poverty.
“A lot of these kids are the first ones in their family to go to college,” Slutzkin said. “In this era of people losing jobs and the economy in a shambles you’re taking away a benefit from underprivileged students. The DOE is violating the promise they made to these kids. It’s unfathomable.”
Townsend Harris admits students based on grades, test scores and attendance, although those latter two measures were negated this year because of the coronavirus.
Sources said Condon met with DOE officials late Wednesday who made the cut official.
“There are few such programs that so effectively offer both educational and financial benefits simultaneously,” Condon wrote in his letter earlier this week in anticipating the move. “It is an exemplary and efficient use of public funds, and we could line up numerous alumni who will share how much it helped them not only be ready for college but to save money at the same time.”
Schools with competitive admissions have faced increasing scrutiny in recent years from both DOE officials, activist groups, and parents.
Those voices argue that they favor families with the resources to prepare their children for admission and that their populations are not demographically representative of the city as a whole.
Roughly 70 percent of the nation’s largest school system in black and Hispanic.
Backers of screened schools counter that city kids should have the opportunity to learn at an advanced and accelerated pace.
They also note that most top DOE officials either sent or send their own children to schools with competitive admissions.
“We need all members of our community to lift up their voices and make it known that defunding this long-standing partnership is not acceptable and will not be tolerated,” Condon said in his letter.
The DOE stressed unprecedented budget shortfalls due to the coronavirus in defending the cut.
“In the face of the severe budget crisis caused by the COVD-19 pandemic, we made the hard decision to prioritize core academics, resulting in hundreds of millions in budget cuts in the Adopted budget alone,” Styer said.
BREAKING NEWS: Citing budget crisis, DOE cuts funding for Queens College Bridge Program
By the 2021 Editors of The Classic
In an email to The Classic, Department of Education Deputy Press Secretary Nathaniel Styer confirmed that due to the budget crisis caused by coronavirus, the DOE will not be funding the Queens College Bridge Year Program for the 2020-2021 school year. 
Mr. Styer wrote, “In the face of the severe budget crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, we made the hard decision to prioritize core academics, resulting in hundreds of millions in budget cuts in the Adopted budget alone. This special allocation was unique to Townsend Harris, and, in the interest of equity, we sought to work with school leadership to find alternative means to continue funding this program within their budget if they choose to.”
Last year, the school received $671,000 to fund its partnership with Queens College. This funding is separate from the core budget the school receives. Since the school will not be receiving the additional funding this year, the administration would have to redistribute the existing school funds from the school’s core budget if they choose to continue the Queens College partnership. The DOE support staff would consult with the school on how to proceed in making such choices.
This indicates that the school would have to cut funding for other programs, find the money from another source, or work with Queens College to reduce the program’s cost. 
On Monday night, Principal Brian Condon strongly objected to any fund reduction to this program, writing, “defunding this long standing partnership is not acceptable and will not be tolerated.”
Mr. Condon will meet with the Senior Budget Director of Queens North later today to discuss the funding of the Bridge Program. 
In a press conference held this morning, a reporter from WCBS 880 asked Mayor Bill de Blasio about the funding. The Mayor said he would check in on the situation, and said, “We want to do the best we can for our seniors, they’re going to go through a lot this year.”
In response to Mr. Condon’s email, the Townsend Harris Alumni Association (THAA) has released a statement encouraging alumni to reach out to political representatives and put pressure on the DOE to fund the program. THHS students have also expanded their efforts by launching a petition in support of the program.
In the statement, the THAA expressed their opposition to the cutting of the program, writing that the alleged decision is “not appropriate for so many reasons.” Calling for an “all-hands-on-deck approach,” the THAA provided contact information for elected officials and emphasized the urgency of the situation, urging alumni to reach out to officials before the DOE makes any announcements, and many have already responded to the call to action.
In a letter to representatives, Class of 2019 alumna Shivani Persaud wrote, “The Bridge Year Program [is allowing] me to graduate in Fall 2021 with my bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Florida, begin graduate school at the age of 20 due to my early graduation, [and] win scholarships to other colleges…due to the merit associated with the Bridge Year Program.” 
Similarly, Class of 2016 alum Julian De La Rosa explained that the credits offered by the program transferred over to his current college, giving him some leeway when switching majors. 
“This is [an] opportunity for the Townsend community (young and old) to band together to fight for change or against unjust actions done without the consideration of the student body,” Julian said.
“I think we were all expecting potential budget cuts in this situation but none of us expected it to be in such a direct way like eliminating the Bridge Year Program,” said Tina Chen, Class of 2020, who plans to contact elected officials. “We’ve all benefited from the QC-THHS partnership in one way or another and it would be saddening to see the next few graduating classes not be able to experience it.” 
On Tuesday evening, the Townsend Harris Student Union (SU) created a petition in order to organize support against the decision to cut the Bridge Year Program. 
In the hours following its creation, the petition has garnered over 1,600 signatures, with many students and alumni taking to social media to promote it and encourage students outside of THHS to participate.
Teachers and parents have also joined the conversation. 
Former UFT Chapter Leader and current Social Studies teacher Franco Scardino said that he agrees with Mr. Condon’s allegation that the DOE is exploiting the pandemic. Citing the controversy over principal hiring from 2017, he said, “for whatever reason(s), some officials at the DOE have historically targeted THHS.”
Mr. Scardino, a member of the school’s reopening committee, also emphasized the importance of QC classes in the programming of the whole school. He explained that with seniors spending a portion of their days programmed for Queens College courses, there is enough space in the THHS building for freshmen, sophomore, and junior classes. However, if more seniors are expected in the building during the day, he said that “finding adequate space to accommodate all students with the current program and bell schedule will be nearly impossible.” 
PTA Co-President Bill Rettig shared his concerns that the loss of the program would negatively impact both current and incoming students, as resources would need to be redirected to substitute missing QC classes. 
“As a parent, I support the QC Bridge program and recognize that we need to keep it and the [36] year tradition behind it. This program has been under threat before. It is a part of what defines us as a ‘humanities school’ and is an integral part of our identity,” he said.
The following Classic editors contributed to this reporting: Anindita Bhattacharjee, Ifeoluwa Adedokun, Ikeoluwa Adedokun, Sarah Aguiar, Ryan Eng, Julia Maciejak, Matthew Merino, Nikki Ng, Victoria Oei, Jasmine Palma, Michelle Sandy, Samantha Sestak, Zeyad Shariff, Ariana Vernon, Julia Wojtkowski, Jessie Ye, Daniela Zavlun, and Nataniela Zavlun

By the 2021 Editors of The Classic, July 28, 2020
On Monday evening, Principal Brian Condon emailed students and families announcing that he believes the NYC Department of Education plans to cut the Queens College Bridge Year Program at Townsend Harris. He urged students and parents to reach out to elected officials, saying that everyone should make it known that “defunding this long standing partnership is not acceptable and will not be tolerated.” 
The Classic cannot confirm that the program’s funding will be reduced, eliminated, or even impacted at this time. In his email, Mr. Condon says he has a budgetary meeting on Wednesday with the DOE, where he expects to be given word about a budget cut or elimination involving the program. 
Within minutes of receiving the email, THHS students took to their social media platforms to raise awareness of the contents of the message and protest the possible changes Mr. Condon described. 
These students encouraged those attending THHS and other NYC high schools to share informative posts and contact officials to ensure that the program is not defunded. Students have also raised awareness through the use of the hashtag #SaveTownsendHarris2020, which has been included in posts that share a description of the QC program and ways to reach out to representatives. The THHS Student Union has used the hashtag to encourage students to take political action. In a reference to Mr. Condon’s allegation that the DOE has sought to undercut the program in the past and is now using the pandemic as “cover,” the SU’s post writes, “Do not give DOE the chance to use the pandemic as an excuse to end this phenomenal program that defines our school.”
Senior Class President Katie Hsu described a sense of “panic” she felt surrounding the news. She said she supports political action and referred to past protests against former principal Rosemarie Jahoda which, she said, “have taught the student body that they cannot remain silent when something is wrong.” 
“I think Mr. Condon’s ‘call to action’ inspired a lot of us to reach out to our elected officials and do our part in preventing the budget cut,” said rising junior Sonia Hasko. “Townsend’s history proves that student voices can and will be heard.”
Rising senior Alvin Zou said he found the announcement “quite shocking at first.” He said, “The Bridge Year Program is an integral part of our senior year experience and I commend Principal Condon’s diligence in fighting for the seniors.”
In a range of conversations with The Classic, several students said that they felt disheartened, enraged, and horrified about the prospective change. Some praised Mr. Condon for being transparent with students and parents, and others expressed concern at the stress that these decisions may bring.
The QC Bridge Year Program allows seniors to earn 12 college credits from four classes taken at Queens College. Seniors usually spend two bands a day in QC courses. Mr. Condon’s letter suggested that seniors may face holes in their programs without these courses and that his ability to reopen the building safely will be impaired if seniors are expected in the building more as a result.
Mr. Condon’s email included links to a spreadsheet with the contact information of over fifty politicians as well as a form letter for students and families to send to them. He also noted that a future town hall meeting will be held to prevent the discontinuation of the Bridge program.
This is a developing story. The Classic has reached out to the DOE and Mr. Condon for comment and will continue to report on the situation.
The following Classic editors contributed to this reporting: Ifeoluwa Adedokun, Ryan Eng, Julia Maciejak, Matthew Merino, Nikki Ng, Victoria Oei, Jasmine Palma, Michelle Sandy, Samantha Sestak, Ariana Vernon, Julia Wojtkowski, Jessie Ye, Daniela Zavlun, and Nataniela Zavlun