The Best of Bloomberg's School Reform

How the Mayor Is Resuscitating Our Sick System

8. To allow the instructional chain of command to focus on instruction, the six Regional Operations Centers (ROCs) are doing the dirty work, managing everything from money to maintenance. The pressures of everyday decision-making are already testing this linchpin separation of powers, but Klein must stick with it. The redesign has already saved $100 million by halving the old-line district bureaucracies and reducing the overall number of six-figure positions. Weingarten ridicules the supposed mismatch of 10 instructional and six operational regions: "Excuse me, Mr. Mayor, who was smoking what on the day this arrangement was dreamed up? Imagine having one office planning budgets and another planning instructional programs!" Decades of aligning them may have been convenient for union influence-peddling, but Noreen Connell, the head of the Educational Priorities Panel, says that Bloomberg's reorganization creates the possibility of "real administrative accountability for learning."

9. The reorganization is challenging many of the fiefdoms that have ruled schools. The old Board of Education and Community School Boards are gone. The centralized and disconnected division of high schools has been melded into a unified system. The LISs are increasing the number of non-unionized executives, which has resulted in another grievance from the CSA, whose existence revolves around defining top-level titles as nonmanagerial so it can represent them (asked if principals should be unionized, Klein declined to answer, calling it an "idle fight" and "Sisyphean exercise"). The decision to make the UFT-represented coaches appointees of the LISs prevented them from assuming tenured positions in the school, creating a new fiefdom. That, too, has prompted CSA attacks branding the coaches as "spies," though Klein insists that "no coach will be hired without a principal's approval."

10. While parents are far from certain that the plan empowers them, the hiring of the nation's first army of parent coordinators and the creation of new community councils dominated by parent supermajorities offer the hope of new forms of parent involvement. Principals alone hire and fire the coordinators, but parent bodies can screen and recommend candidates. The coordinators are aided by 45 parent support staff in the 10 new regions and 32 old districts, with some parent centers open at night and weekends for the first time. Eleven-member councils led by nine parents will do formal, though only advisory, evaluations of RSs and LISs. While the legislature, pushed by the CSA, prevented the councils from doing the same with principals, Klein says that "one of their important functions would be to hear from the community councils on principals," adding that he wants them and parent-led School Leadership Teams "to give me input on them."

Details

First of a Two-Part Series

Part Two: The 10 Worst Bloomberg School Reforms


Beyond the bold outlines of the Children First plan, the Bloomberg team is dramatically reshaping schools. They just announced the opening of 58 new, small high schools this year, with the goal of starting 200 small schools that service a third of all high school students. Despite a crushing budget gap, they're lowering reading class size in middle school from 35 students to 28.

The contract Bloomberg signed with the teachers union last year granted the largest pay raises in history, up to 22 percent, and made it possible to offer competitive salaries to teachers transferring in from other systems. It also added 100 minutes to each teacher's workweek. Klein is insisting that half of the extra time be spent on professional development—especially with all the new curriculum demands—while he says Weingarten "wants 20 minutes dispersed throughout the day in two, three-minute segments." Weingarten is grieving that, even as she derides Klein for not sufficiently training teachers in the new curricula. She's questioned the parent coordinator program without revealing that she pushed hard to get the designation to represent them.

The mayor and Klein's willingness to weather CSA and UFT firestorms pushed Weingarten recently to announce, on the front page of the Times, that she might be willing to let teachers in their schools vote on retaining or dropping the hundreds of micromanaging work rules in her contract. The offer did not include changing stalwarts like the salary schedule, which requires the system to pay phys ed and physics teachers the same amount. But it might be a step in the right direction, eventually stripping the straitjacket off the system. With negotiations for a new teachers contract just beginning, that could be Klein and Bloomberg's greatest contribution.

Next week: The downside of the Bloomberg revolution.


Research assistance: Michael Anstendig, Tommy Hallissey, Cristi Hegranes, Abigail Roberts, Sarah Ruffler, and Jessica Silver-Greenberg

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