2007-06-01 / Columnists

School Scope

DOE To Eliminate Job Of Principal
Commentary By Norman Scott

Commentary By Norman Scott

Norman ScottNorman Scott As reported by Gary Babad (Gadfly News): In a stealth announcement, the NY City Department of Education today released the news that it will be eliminating the position of principal in all of its schools by the start of the 2007-2008 school year. Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein, weekending in an undisclosed location in East Hampton, released the announcement in Dan's Papers, a Hamptons-based give-away publication.

Reached on his beach cell phone by this reporter, Chancellor Klein elaborated on the decision. "In every single one of our schools, principals draw the highest salaries. Eliminating those salaries will allow us to get the funds directly back into the classroom where the money belongs. It's a clear, simple business strategy: cut out the middle man."

How exactly will this new plan work? As Chancellor Klein explained, teachers will be able to choose from a menu of Supervision Support Organizations. "Some," he said, "called Big Bucks Supervision Organizations (BBSOs), will be funded entirely by Bill Gates. We're in discussion with him about that right now. Another option, which we're calling Throw Them A Bone Supervision Organizations (TTABSOs), might be offered by former principals.

Some of our exiting principals might want to take advantage of the Memorial Day holiday to throw together a plan and submit it to us first thing Tuesday morning. And the third choice on the menu will be our Up The Creek Without A Paddle option (UTCWAP). Those teachers who opt to go the UTCWAP route can choose their Supervision Supports a la carte."

Babad does this regularly on the NYC Public School Parents blog ( http://nycpub licschoolparents.blogspot. com/ ). But BloomKlein provide oh so much material.

People not directly involved in public education tell me they can make no sense of my columns. That it's like trying to read another language. Aside from my natural tendency to be confusing, writing about the NYC DOE under BloomKlein is like a trip through the fun house in an amusement park. Well, at least for us retirees. For people still working in the system, it's more like Nightmare on Elm Street. So what about all those SSO's, PSO's, ESO's, and LSO's? This is NOT a joke, for all you civilians who happened to accidentally wander into this column, most likely never to emerge.

Okay, okay. If you're trapped and can't get out, let me try to explain it in one sentence. BloomKlein destroyed the structure of the school system not once but twice and every school is now a free agent (the Yankees were bidding on one of the PSO's) and can choose amongst all these acronyms. If you insist on knowing what all this stuff stands for: There are three types of SSO's (School Support Organizations): Empowerment Support Organization (ESO): schools choosing this option will join other schools in a network and choose how to receive support; Learning Support Organization (LSO): four organizations to be led by former regional superintendents; Partnership Support Organization (PSO): non-profit groups under contract to provide services.

And the winner is...

Empowerment (35% of the systems almost 1500 schools).... and amongst the LSO's, former Region 3 Superintendent Judy Chin making a spectacular showing at 27%. Spectacular compared to the other three LSO's. Region 8's Marsha Lyles (12%), Region 2's Laura Rodriguez (8%) and our own Region 5's Kathleen Cashin (7%).

Now mind you, these four gals (where have all the men gone or does Klein have a problem) were the big winners in the sweepstakes over all the other regional superintendents and were then sent off to compete with each other. (An interesting sidenote is the ethnic breakdown of the fab four: Asian, Hispanic, African-American and White.)

Had enough? Sorry, there's more. Chin's network is called the Integrated Curriculum and Instruction LSO, or ICI. Got it? And the others? Lyles (Community), Rodriguez (Leadership) and Cashin (Knowledge Network.)

Oy vey! Can I get out of this column? Now! Sorry poor readers, I have to take a stab at breaking some of this down.

Other than Empowerment, which may be coming from the newer principals, especially the Leadership Academy trained attack dogs without deep political ties to the old districts or regions, the home boroughs of Chin (Eastern Queens), Lyles (North Brook-lyn) and Rodriguez (East Bronx) broke out as expected.

Cashin was the anomaly with a base in southeast Brooklyn and southwestern Queens. She got 55 schools in Brooklyn and only 35 schools in Queens, 4 from Staten Island, 2 from Manhattan and 0 in the Bronx. What explains her poor showing? Having received favorable press for going against the grain of BloomKlein with a more structured curriculum, cooperation with the UFT hierarchy and being the darling of the right-wing critics of BloomKlein (the phonics police) one would have expected a better showing. The NY Times article made the point of how few of the schools in Region 5 went for Klein's Empowerment Zone baby last year. Was she sabotaged from within? Or did some of Cashin's constituents vote with their feet? Who can wend their way through the Byzantine DOE system?

I wouldn't count Cashin out in the long-term. After the deluge of BloomKlein, when the Thermidorian Reaction (the revolt in the French Revolution against the excesses of the Reign of Terror) takes place, Cashin may well find herself as the Chancellor when the Bobsey twins are out of office.

Judy Chin's team ran a great campaign (this IS all about the kids, right?) She has a reputation as the most benign Superintendent who gave her people the most leeway and the least hassle. Most of Region 3 probably stayed put. She made the popular Superintendent of Region 4, Charles Amundson, a deputy and a lot of Region 4 went with her. (Amundsen was a major backer of the robotics program that I worked for in the region and is one of the most pleasant mucky mucks I have met.) Amundsen also has a base in Staten Island and Chin got almost half of the schools in that borough.

All the LIS's and PIS's and who knows what from the former districts/regions and now back to districts who are still looking for jobs (think any of them are going back to the classroom?) will gravitate to Chin, who will have tremendous hiring power over all the others.New Vision led the non-profits with 5% but they have been tabbed as extortionists in the past as they steal entire schools when large high schools are closed. Being the bag people for the Bill Gates money certainly helps New Vision.

Changes at the UFT Too

Randi Weingarten, BloomKlein's Consigliore, also announced changes, moving the affable Michael Mendel from Staff Director to Executive Assistant to the President and elevating attack dog Jeff Zahler to staff director to ride herd over the staff and to stamp out any opposition while Weingarten traipses away to Washington as president of the AFT, most likely in July 2008 or 2010.

Weingarten's goal is way bigger than AFT Presidency. A national merger with the much larger NEA would put her in position to head the massive combined union that would be the largest in the nation and set her up to head the entire AFL-CIO, a unique position for a woman, especially from the non-trades.

Who will replace her in the UFT? The betting has been that it will be former Rockaway resident and long-time Wave reader Michelle Bodden, currently UFT Vice-President for Elementary School. Many UFT staffers who are tired of Weingarten's act are hoping for the change, as Bodden is extremely popular both in the union and in the schools.

But the UFT is just as Byzantine as the DOE and the changes announced are indicative that Weingarten, following in the footsteps of her predecessors Sandra Feldman and Al Shanker, will not give up the UFT presidency when she goes to the AFT. The AFT president has little real power but lots of prestige. Power resides in the locals and the UFT is the big enchilada in the AFT. To hand over her power base even to a hand-picked successor is a risk. When Feldman elevated Weingarten there was friction between them as Feldman felt she still had the right to tell Weingarten what to do. Weingarten was quick to purge certain Feldman loyalists who did not go along with the program, but most switched in a heartbeat. Would Weingarten fall into the same trap?

The recent UFT election was very important to Weingarten in that the lack of ability of the opposition to make a real dent gave her free reign to get away with holding both the AFT and UFT positions and I'm convinced she will run for UFT President again in 2010 even if she is in Washington and will fly in to run Delegate Assemblies and put out fires.

Both Shanker and Feldman had obvious lines of succession in place so they were able to give up the UFT Presidency at some point. For instance, as far back as the late 80's it was clear that Weingarten was going to take Feldman's place and they quickly moved to get her a teaching license and put her part-time in a safe school. Weingarten has not been as far-sighted, a deep level of paranoia being one of them. But hey, absolute power corrupts absolutely and all that crap. Experienced observers of the UFT know all the signs that will point to a successor. And the successor is..... no less than Randi Weingarten herself.

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