2003-06-20 / Columnists

From the

By Howard Schwach
From the Editor’s Desk By Howard Schwach

Lots of strange things have happened over the years in relation to school governance in this city, but the recent agreement between the city and those legislators who sued over the latest governance plan has to be one of the strangest.

Picture this! 82-01 Rockaway Boulevard in Ozone Park sometime in September.

Kathy Cashin, the newly-installed supervising administrator for Region Five sits in Matt Bromme’s old office on the fourth floor, supervising a number of instructional supervisors, each of whom supervise several schools.

Actually, it is not really Matt Bromme’s old office, because the city has renovated the entire building (which already costs taxpayers more than $60,000 each month in rent) for Cashin and her staff. I guess it needed to be renovated because the last renovation was as far back as 2002.

And, it is difficult to find out who those instructional supervisors will be for Rockaway’s schools, although rumors have been rife throughout the school community that the three Rockaway supervisors will be Mary Weinstein, Michelle Lloyd-Bey and Rita Gerimita. The city’s Department of Education will not reveal the names to The Wave. In fact, it seems that it is a more closely-guarded secret than the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden.

Now, however, either Michelle Lloyd Bey (the present superintendent, who was appointed by the Chancellor to the job when Bromme was reassigned to Tweed Courthouse) or Mary Weinstein (the deputy superintendent) will most likely remain at 82-01 as one of the three people who must, under the agreement, make up the new Community School District 27 staff.

That’s right, three people. A superintendent, a parent advocate and a clerical person must remain as a district staff when the new regional governance program takes over in June.

In addition, there will be a fiscal officer, but it is unclear from the agreement just who that person reports to.

Stupidity and political chicanery such as this has not been seen in a long time, even in a system famous for its stupidity and political chicanery.

What will those three people do?

Well, the agreement says that the superintendents can rate principals. The regional superintendent, however, is charged with the same duty and, to a lesser extent, so are the instructional supervisors. Other than that, the superintendent can sit back and watch the new regions operate.

The parent advocate is charged with listening to parent complaints and acting as the liaison between the parents and the district. There will be, however, a parent advocate in each school. Is this a duplication of effort? Who cares?

Despite the agreement and the claims of victory by both sides, the districts remain a legal fiction.

Was the law upheld? Sure it was, the letter of the law if not the spirit of the law.

Was the basic idea of reorganization upheld? Of course it was.

So, we get three schleps sitting at 82-01 Rockaway Boulevard with little to do but shuffle paper from one place to another. Sure, the superintendents are charged with working with the new district Parent councils, but those councils are still in the planning stage. They may always be in the planning stage. Remember, those councils are designed to replace the local schools boards. Those board will be out of business on June 30, only two weeks from now. Will the new parent bodies be in place? What, are you kidding?

The agreement may be a victory of the mayor and the chancellor. They got their reorganization plan, a plan that calls for ten regions rather than 32 districts almost whole-cloth. Even with the three people at each "district office," the savings made should run in the millions of dollars.

It may be a victory of the legislators who challenged the reorganization. They get to keep the 32 districts, albeit in a greatly reduced size.

It is certainly no victory for the kids, the parents, or for education in general.

Nobody, however, seems to care, with the exception of parents and those who really know about education.

The parents are angry because the school-based parent coordinators will be chosen by the principal of the school, not by its parents.

In a number of cases reported in the daily papers, parents voted for one candidate for the position, only to be overruled by the principal.

"The parent coordinator has to work closely with the principal, so the principal should pick the candidate for that position," school officials say. Parents, however, want somebody who is accountable to them and not to the principal.

That the plan seems to be a politically-based one rather than an educationally-sound one seems to be the consensus. In fact, there is really no other way to look at the compromise. The politicians were angry that the mayor and the chancellor were ursuping the power and they sued to keep some modicum of power and respect.In an editorial last week, Newsday said, "To call 32 of the school system’s new instructional supervisors "district superintendents" is almost laughable.

I seldom agree with Newsday, particularly on its coverage of the education beat.

In this case, however, they are right on the target.

The new agreement defines the word "laughable."

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