PEP Update: State Ed Reprimand on ELL Education

Update: Letter from SED on ELL deficiencies provided.

Highlights of the September, 2010 Panel for Educational Policy meeting held on Staten Island:


State Ed Reprimand

I asked the Chancellor to release the letter from the NYS Education Department reprimanding the DOE for failures in providing services to English language learners. Meredith Kolodner had reported on the existence of the letter in the Daily News Wednesday. The Chancellor responded that he did not know if legally it was appropriate to release the letter. I then asked DOE General Counsel Mike Best what the legal issues preventing the release of the letter might be. He said he would review the issues with SED to see if the letter could be released. Click here for the letter.

Chancellor's Reg C-30

The regulation governing the process to appoint principals and assistant principals was up for approval. I was not comfortable with the outsized role of the Children's First Network and its "cluster" leader on the committee to review the candidates and select the best one. Principals choose their network and cluster in the current arrangement established by DOE. The network provides services to the school. There is an incentive for the network leadership to select principals who will, in turn, select their network to provide services. In effect, we have a vendor running the process to select the principal. I abstained on the vote. Anna Santos representing the Bronx voted against the regulation citing the diminished parent influence in the process.

Contracts

All contracts were approved. I voted to reject a consulting contract for "virtual learning". The Panel has been asked to approve large expenditures for a virtual learning platform, content and now consulting services to assemble it and deploy it to schools. We've added 18,000 students this year and lost 2,000 teaching positions. Instead of spending real money on virtual learning we need real teachers to provide real instruction.

Cuts to Busing on Staten Island & Queens.

In the public comment session Sam Pirozzolo, president of Community Education Council 31, led Staten Islanders in a spirited attack on the DOE decision to eliminate the policy of granting variances to 7th and 8th graders who would face hazardous commutes without yellow busing.

The public raised a number of important points:
  • No one in DOE appears to have considered the fact that one set of busing decisions was made many years ago as a part of a racial integration plan.
  • The DOE has not proposed rezoning for Staten Island and none has been done in over twenty years.
  • The decision to eliminate the entire policy of granting variances would itself require a full Panel vote along with proper notification. No process has been followed to do so.
I explained to the Panel and audience that I've asked three times to be provided by DOE with data on yellow bus routes by school. The Panel needs to be able to understand where routes are being added and subtracted in order to assess whether the budget is being appropriately allocated and if elimination of variances is the appropriate policy. The chancellor and assorted deputy chancellors repeatedly asserted that their management of the busing procurement and routing was exemplary. I responded simply that if DOE is increasing the transportation budget yet forcing children into hazardous commutes, then they need to provide more transparency into these decisions.
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